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Yen Ngoc Do, Vietnamese News Pioneer

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Yen Ngoc Do, Vietnamese News Pioneer

Remembrances

Yen Ngoc Do, Vietnamese News Pioneer

Yen Ngoc Do, Vietnamese News Pioneer

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Newspaper publisher Yen Ngoc Do died last week in California. For decades, he ran Nguoi Viet Daily News, the largest Vietnamese-language newspaper outside of Ho Chi Minh City. The publication was based in Orange County, home to the largest concentration of people of Vietnamese descent outside Vietnam.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

From NPR News, it's DAY TO DAY. A remembrance now for the late publisher of the largest Vietnamese newspaper to be produced outside that country. Yen Ngoc Do was 65 years old when he died last week in Orange County, California.

Here's DAY TO DAY'S Karen Grigsby Bates.

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES reporting:

Mourning in Little Saigon, a thriving community of Vietnamese immigrants in Orange County, began as soon as the news of Yen Do's death was announced. Not long afterwards, mourning also began across the ocean in what had been Saigon 30 years ago.

Yen Do's newspaper, the Nguoi Viet Daily News, was the bridge that kept these two communities connected. Like a lot of Vietnamese now living in Orange County, Do and his family fled Saigon when it fell to the communists. Three years later, he and some friends began a newspaper in his home.

Mr. JEFF BRODY (Professor of Communications, Cal State University Fullerton): Yen started Nguoi Viet in his garage and he was the entire newspaper. He did everything.

BATES: Jeff Brody teaches communications at Cal State University Fullerton. He and Do were long time colleagues and friends. Everything, Brody says, including writing, editing, serving as the paper's ad salesman, and its typesetter.

Mr. BRODY: He even inked in the accent marks on Vietnamese. Because there was no Vietnamese software or no Vietnamese typewriters around, so he had to ink in the accent marks by hand.

BATES: Anh Do is now editor of Nguoi Viet. She says she grew up helping her father bundle the newspapers that would be sent to refugee communities around the world. Anh Do says her father thought it was critical that the new arrivals adjust to life in their adopted homeland.

Ms. ANH DO (Editor, Nguoi Viet Daily News; Daughter of Yen Ngoc Do): In the beginning it was practicality. He saw that his fellow refugees did not know the basics: what goes on at a PTA meeting, how to apply for a home loan, what do you do when you need to take the driver's test. And so he wanted to go out and do all of these things and write about it and share what he learned.

BATES: As it matured, Jeff Brody says Nguoi Viet covered political news that might otherwise have fallen through the cracks.

Mr. BRODY: He also was providing news of the homeland that you couldn't find in the mainstream press. So when Vietnam in 1979 had a border war with China, Yen covered that in depth.

BATES: Do believed that his paper and his community were parts of a whole. Although the paper was quite profitable, Do himself was not a rich man says Jeff Brody.

Mr. BRODY: He gave ownership of the paper to the coworkers, to the editors, to the writers, to the artists, and he gave away his shares in the newspaper. And as a result, Nguoi Viet is owned primarily by the staff. This is like unheard of in a mainstream American newspaper.

BATES: So is the availability of the paper's community room to almost anyone in the community that needs it. Nguoi Viet's community room is wide open by Anh Do's mandate. Anh Do says, in the beginning, her father envisioned the room as a way to draw news into the paper from the myriad communities it serves.

Ms. DO: They continue to flock there every weekend in my memory.

BATES: Today and tomorrow, Vietnamese Americans and others will be flocking to pay their pay their last respects. Anh Do thinks her father, by all reports a man who shied away from calling attention to himself, would be bemused at all the ceremonies surrounding his death.

Ms. DO: He's a man who still only has two ties permanently knotted because they're easier to slip on. And the pomp and circumstance can be overwhelming, but I like to see it as he's reuniting people in Little Saigon once again.

BATES: Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News, Los Angeles.

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: DAY TO DAY returns in just a moment.

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