By Minzhu Jiao
South China Seas Correspondent
A typical Scarborough newsstand yesterday
LUZON ISLAND (China Daily Show) – The ailing reef print-media industry suffered a blow this week, after a newspaper announced record losses just one week after publishing its first edition.
The Scarborough Bugle, incorporating the Panatag Shoal Times-Inquirer, was launched last week at a glamorous press conference held on the barnacle-riven peak of South Rock.
With a venture-capital injection from Aquino Asset Management of around 40 million pesos, the Bugle announced it was aimed at bringing readers “all the patriotic news and views fit to print in the Scarborough Shoal Bay Area.”
The debut issue launched with a cover splash pledging loyalty to the Philippines and an exclusive interview with Economic Secretary Arsenio Balisacan. Inside, a two-page spread revealed that Lethal Weapon 2 had been confirmed for a long-awaited cinematic release on Scarborough in July.
Investors had hoped the Bugle would pick up offshore readers from the nearby Spratly Sun, which was forced to close last year amid allegations of conch-hacking.
Initial sales have proved disappointing however, with the 32-page daily newspaper struggling to sell even a single copy on the godforsaken atoll.
At newsstands across the 150-square kilometer shoal, the level of consumer disinterest was said to be disappointing, even by Scarborough Shoal standards.
“I’ve seen more activity among the mono-cellular marine life in a stagnant lagoon,” one disgruntled vendor reported.
Bugle staff say they are baffled at the lack of success.
“It’s really hard to understand – the market is wide open. There’s pretty much zero competition,” said editor-in-chief Bentley Wilson III. “But the wankers just aren’t picking up a copy.”
Despite scoops such as ‘Scarborough officials to boycott chopsticks’ and ‘Giant wave washes away capital city,’ the newspaper posted losses of 80 million pesos within just hours of going to press.
Nightlife editor Pipa Sipin nevertheless predicted that sales would likely bounce back after the tourist season began.
“Though when exactly that is, it’s hard to say,” Sipin added. “But if you hear of any bar openings, drop me a line, would you?”
Headlines such as ‘Pet Seagull Missing’ failed to tempt readers
The losses may cause the publishers to cancel an upcoming Sunday literary supplement and replace the food correspondent, after a ‘101 best starfish recipes to crunch your way to that beach body’ feature led to widespread illness in the newsroom.
Wilson has promised an aggressive marketing campaign to be plastered across local coral reefs, targeting passing fisherman and Chinese naval patrols.
With this publicity tactic comes the fear of Chinese reef review rip-offs, however. “It’s a fucking nightmare,” admitted Sipin.
Editor Wilson remains defiant.
“A lot of people said that launching a daily newspaper on an uninhabited and partially submerged group of rocks in heavily disputed oceanic territory was just plain foolish,” Wilson admitted.
“They’re all wrong. I’m now more determined than ever to prove that maritime print-media still has a strong future in the deep abyssal plains of the Luzon Sea.”
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