Hip new student weekly with Zaobao - Dec 31, 2008 (ST)

BackDec 31, 2008

The Straits Times / The Business Times News On SPH

Hip new student weekly with Zaobao

Chinese-language daily Lianhe Zaobao is replacing its 17-year-old student newspaper Friday Weekly.

By Clarissa Oon
Dec 31, 2008
The Straits Times

CHINESE-LANGUAGE daily Lianhe Zaobao is replacing its 17-year-old student newspaper Friday Weekly with a more hip, news-driven product from next Wednesday.

This mock-up gives an idea of how zbComma will look.

The new title, zbComma, will go out to schools every Wednesday with Lianhe Zaobao, instead of being sold separately, in a bid to raise awareness of the parent newspaper among the young.

The weekly also plans to tie up with the Education Ministry to use the newspapers as a Chinese-language teaching aid in schools, said zbComma editor Lim Soon Lan.

Friday Weekly, launched in 1991, ended its run in November, just before the school holidays started. Its circulation of more than 50,000 covered two-thirds of all secondary schools.

zbComma, like its predecessor, is a 24-page weekly targeted at 12- to 17-year-olds and is available through school subscriptions and at buzz pods at bus interchanges.

However, its cover price is $1.80 compared to Friday Weekly's 50cents. Discounts will be given to schools based on how many copies they take.

The cover price is higher because the new title comes bundled with Lianhe Zaobao and Popcorn, an insert for older teens in the main paper's lifestyle section.

This is similar to The Straits Times' practice. It packages its student weeklies In and Little Red Dot with the parent newspaper.

While Friday Weekly, as an independent publication, established itself as a teaching tool, its separate existence from Lianhe Zaobao resulted in 'secondary school students losing touch with the latter after leaving school', said Mr Robin Hu, executive vice-president of Singapore Press Holdings' Chinese newspapers and newspaper services.

Consequently, they do not appreciate Lianhe Zaobao as the best channel for insights into the Chinese community and culture as well as contemporary China.

This is 'regrettable' and it is Zaobao's 'responsibility to help every generation of Singaporeans consolidate our unique bilingual and bi-cultural strengths', added Mr Hu, who is also chairman of the Singapore Centre for Chinese Language (SCCL).

Another change is that zbComma will include more local and world news compared to Friday Weekly, where the staple diet was entertainment and lifestyle features, said Lianhe Zaobao's local news editor, Ms Lee Huay Leng.

'We want to show students that Chinese is a living language and the language of current affairs, not something found in 5,000-year-old literary texts or popular culture alone,' explained Ms Lee, who is coordinating the revamp.

The news will be presented in a fun and insightful way for students. For example, a section dedicated to court cases involving teens will have lawyers and counsellors explaining how these crimes might have happened.

zbComma's collaboration with the Education Ministry and the SCCL will help make newspapers more effective as a teaching tool in the classroom.

This is in line with one of the ministry's targets following the overhaul of Chinese-language teaching four years ago: that by the end of Secondary4, a student should be able to understand most stories in Chinese newspapers.