Asia Pacific Media Educator


Two steps forward, one step back? Or one step forward, two steps back? That's the dilemma in trying to judge changes in Vietnamese journalism today. The nation's media, even though still government-owned, are in a state of flux under doi moi (market renovation policy). Take a few examples of the parry-and-thrust between reporters, editors and Party overseers.
A glossy, full-colour monthly called Thoi Trang Tre (New Fashion) proves wildly popular among Vietnamese youth with fashion and make-up tips, and bikini-clad photos of shapely Western and Vietnamese models. Yet its staff frets over each Cindy Crawford or Elle MacPherson photo lest a cultural official decry the corruption of a Western lifestyle.
The editor, Vu Quang Vinh, a former art director and playwright for the state's Youth Theatre, steers clear of political issues. But the magazine's contents crystallize the cultural pitfalls that top-level Party conservatives fear as Vietnam opens at often breakneck speed to the outside world, especially since the two-year-old magazine already exceeds 60,000 circulation, despite a princely US$l price when most Vietnamese periodicals go for US15 cents or less. So, when prominent leaders exhort the media to promote "good deeds" and to avoid "British tabloid" style stories on love, sex, and other cultural debasements, the media take heed.