Starting CommonWealth Magazine, Aspiring to Create a Better Future for Taiwan

/ Diane Ying / Founder of CommonWealth Magazine Group

The founder of CommonWealth Magazine Diane Ying was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1987. This year, she received the SOPA Lifetime Achievement Award 2021 for her extraordinary contributions to journalism. In her acceptance speech, she sincerely shared with everyone present at the ceremony about the positive influence of the news. She is widely respected for her lofty goals and down-to-earth approach in journalism.

Fortuitously Accepted into NCKU Department of Foreign Languages and Literature

“So, what can we do to help?” Diane (Yun-Peng) Ying, founder of CommonWealth Magazine, is often heard saying this, whether it be the world turned upside down, Taiwan facing another diplomatic dilemma, or anxiety sweeping society. Even when she feels worried, she asks the right questions and looks for solutions to the problems.

Diane Ying was born in Xi’an, China, in 1941 and was named “Peng,” literally meaning a well-grown vegetation. When the Chinese Civil War was drawing to a close in 1949, the then-eight-year-old Diane Ying and her family fled to Taiwan in a transport aircraft. They lived temporarily in Chiayi before going to Taipei on the second day of the Chinese lunar new year, where Diane lived with her aunt at Yitong Street and where she passed the college entrance exam in 1960. She found out that she could major in foreign languages at NCKU. She recalled and said, “Honestly, I did not know much about NCKU as it was difficult to get information back then. But things turned out all right. It was a wonderful experience.”

The experience was marvelous because her peers came from diverse backgrounds. There were students in exile, East Asian migrant students, and the beloved daughter of a town doctor. The students were also taught by teachers who were from diverse backgrounds, such as priests and missionaries. “It was a very down-to-earth place for us all,” Diane Ying said. When her professor read aloud a passage from a play by Shakespeare, Diane was greatly moved to see someone so absorbed in literary works. “Literature has influenced me a lot,” she said, speaking of her fond memories of listening to stories, though she had less interest in literary theories.

She has the Soul of a Journalist; Returning to Taiwan to Be a More Useful Person in Society

Out of a passion for stories, she went abroad to study at the University of Iowa and switched her major to journalism. She wrote a thesis exploring why very few overseas Taiwanese went back to Taiwan to make their home country a better place, by interviewing some overseas Taiwanese. Some participants spoke of the U.S. as a much more developed country than was Taiwan. Diane Ying’s response was: “Taiwan won’t become a developed country if we don’t make efforts.” This exemplifies her great sense of purpose and her desire to make things better.

After leaving college, she worked as a journalist for The Philadelphia Inquirer for two years. Yet, she missed her hometown, and the questions that she asked in her master’s thesis kept reminding her that it would be worthwhile considering returning to Taiwan to make a difference in society. Back in Taiwan, she was employed by The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal Asia as a reporter based in Taiwan, while teaching journalism at National Chengchi University.

For Diane Ying, being a journalist is the best job that she can imagine. Though a shy person, she can write forcefully about social issues that merit attention and can further discussion under the professional identity of a journalist. She is very generous in sharing her experiences and giving advice to people pursuing a career in journalism: “The best thing about being a reporter is that you can write about stuff that you care about. Be a useful person and make a difference in society.”

Starting CommonWealth Magazine and Adhering to Principles of Ethical Journalism

People in Taiwan were shocked when the U.S. severed its diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1979, and the future looked bleak and gloomy. In 1981, a magazine called CommonWealth Magazine (Tien Xia) was co-founded by Diane Ying, Charles Kao, Zuo-Jin Zhang, and Li-Sing Wang. Starting this magazine proved to be a quite important decision for Taiwan under the tumultuous circumstances.

Under the leadership of Diane Ying, a team of reporters wrote articles in simple language to improve the financial literacy of everyday readers, while the magazine was highly acclaimed by The New York Times as a mirror reflecting the economic development in Taiwan. In addition to this, CommonWealth also launched a campaign calling for Taiwan’s 319 towns and villages to move forward in the hope of motivating more people to learn more about their hometowns and the land they lived in.

In times of flux, Ying’s publishing group, comprising CommonWealth, Common Health Magazine, Cheers Magazine, CommonWealth Parenting, and the Commonwealth Publishing Company, still places top priority on integrity and ethical journalism. The group is recognized in Taiwan as a trustworthy journalism brand for its objective reporting.

Over the past four decades, Diane Ying has been an influential figure in Taiwan as a dedicated journalist. She is the recipient of many awards domestically and abroad, such as NCKU’s Distinguished Alumni Award, the Distinguished Alumni Award by the University of Iowa, and the Ten Outstanding Young Women Award. She has also been nominated for the Golden Tripod Awards three times. In 1987, Diane Ying received the Ramon Magsaysay Award (known as Asia’s version of the Nobel Prize) for her outstanding achievements, particularly serving as the founder and editor-in-chief of CommonWealth Magazine, thereby improving the quality of financial news reporting and at the same time leading to economic growth in Taiwan. CommonWealth sets an unprecedented example for other news media companies by adhering to journalistic ethics and standards.

Stick to Your Ideals, Have a Warm Personality, and Never Lose Hope

When Diane Ying smiles, she narrows her eyes and looks a little shy. She never forgets to urge young reporters to read, and unsurprisingly, they call her “Teacher Yin” instead of “founder.” Out of a curiosity possessed by most reporters, she once drove at 200 km/h just to see Uluru/Ayers Rock, a sacred place for Australian aboriginal people. This indicates a romantic personality in her. When challenges or obstacles arise, she asks herself quietly, “Want to give it another try?” She remembers how her mother taught her to face up to her fears when she learned to kick a shuttlecock because it was instilled in her that everything would come up roses if she persisted. These warm memories help to create Ying as a warm leader whom people look up to and want to emulate.

In August 2021, 40 years after CommonWealth was founded, Diane Ying wrote a letter of retirement to readers, promising that CommonWealth would continue to “provide top-quality, reliable, and helpful reporting……, while exerting a positive influence through her ideals.” Moreover, she urged that NCKU graduates can take a step further and be a lamplighter and an actor in order to keep Taiwan moving forward, whatever the difficulties, since there is always hope.

According to Morris Chang, founder of TSMC, Diane Ying is “a person of principle who has ideals and persistence. She does not give in to outside pressure nor can she be bribed. She knows right from wrong. She is also a good businessperson, even though she makes money simply to keep her magazine group alive and well in order to continue providing objective reporting in the years to come.” This describes her so well because Diane Ying always seeks to find a balance between her ideals and reality.

Diane Ying continues to live a life of purpose even after retirement. Her adherence to journalism principles and objective reporting demonstrates to Taiwan’s society how an intellectual can be a role model for young talent to emulate while making great contributions to society. As a retired journalist, Diane Ying’s love for Taiwan remains forever young. (Photo courtesy of CommonWealth Magazine)

NCKUer |
Class |
Achievements and Honors |

Diane Ying

Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, Class of 1964

・REceived the 6th Ten Outstanding Young Women Award in 1976.

・Received NCKU’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1985.

・Received the Ramon Magsaysay Award (Asia’s version of the Nobel Prize) in 1987.

・Chosen by Yazhou Zhoukan (Asia Weekly) as one of the most influential women in Asia in 1995.

・Received an honorary doctor of letters degree from National Chengchi University in 2010. She received the Excellent Journalism Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalists later that year.

・As a first-time screenwriter and director of a documentary, Diane Ying won the “Best Documentary Award” of the Golden Harvest Award for the documentary titled “A Life that Lasts” in 2011.

・Received the 1st Lifetime Achievement Award of the Excellent Journalism Award in 2011.

・Received the Special Contribution Award of the Golden Tripod Awards in 2012.

・Granted the 2nd-rate Order of Brilliant Star by the then-President Ma Ying-Jeou in 2016.

・Received the SOPA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021.

Diane Ying / Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, Class of 1964

・REceived the 6th Ten Outstanding Young Women Award in 1976.

・Received NCKU’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1985.

・Received the Ramon Magsaysay Award (Asia’s version of the Nobel Prize) in 1987.

・Chosen by Yazhou Zhoukan (Asia Weekly) as one of the most influential women in Asia in 1995.

・Received an honorary doctor of letters degree from National Chengchi University in 2010. She received the Excellent Journalism Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalists later that year.

・As a first-time screenwriter and director of a documentary, Diane Ying won the “Best Documentary Award” of the Golden Harvest Award for the documentary titled “A Life that Lasts” in 2011.

・Received the 1st Lifetime Achievement Award of the Excellent Journalism Award in 2011.

・Received the Special Contribution Award of the Golden Tripod Awards in 2012.

・Granted the 2nd-rate Order of Brilliant Star by the then-President Ma Ying-Jeou in 2016.

・Received the SOPA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021.

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Department of Physics, Class of 1962

Paul Chu

President of Taiwan Comprehensive University System
Department of Electrical Engineering Class ‘66

Mou-Ying Fu

Chairman of Fulu Foundation
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