Meilun “Ivy” Lee, a pioneer of Chinese news media in New Jersey, was honored by the Organization of Chinese Americans New Jersey Chapter with its Outstanding Community Media Award.
Lee, editor and founder of Sino Monthly New Jersey magazine (Sino-Monthly.com), was recognized for her groundbreaking efforts to present news and information to New Jersey’s Chinese communities in a language they could easily understand.
The Organization of Chinese Americans is a national civil rights advocacy and educational organization dedicated to advancing the social, political and economic well being of Americans of Chinese and Asian/Pacific Islander descent.
When Lee started her Chinese-language monthly magazine in 1991, there were long standing Chinese newspapers in New York City. But they gave little attention to New Jersey. Lee saw that niche and filled it.
As the Chinese population of New Jersey has grown, so has Edison-based Sino Monthly – from 16 black and white pages to 120 pages, many in full color, in the latest issue. It now contains sections covering topics ranging from local news, people, education, leisure and finance to law, literature, business, food and opinion. In addition, Sino Monthly has become part of the collections of libraries around New Jersey including the East Asian Library and the Gest Collection of Princeton University and the East Asian Library of Rutgers University.
“The Organization of Chinese Americans was one of the first organizations I reported on 20 years ago when I first moved to New Jersey,” Lee told the crowd assembled for the New Jersey chapter’s holiday ball and scholarship fundraiser in Totowa Dec. 4. “In the past 20 years, many of OCA’s honorees were featured in Sino Monthly cover stories.”
They included Judge Sue Pai Yang of the New Jersey Workers Compensation Court; Weysan Dun, former FBI special agent in charge of the Newark office, and Professor Ronald Chen, a vice dean of Rutgers Law School in Newark and the former New Jersey public advocate.
“Today I am honored to receive this award and to become a part of this prestigious group that I have been reporting on for the past 20 years.”
To get news to the Chinese communities more quickly, Lee founded the Chinese News Weekly in Metuchen in 1995. In 2000, she pushed the envelope of Chinese news media in New Jersey when she created The New Observer, a special insert to the Chinese News Weekly. The New Observer is written and managed by American-born Chinese high school students for American-born Chinese readers. It is published in English.
Lee knows about American-born Chinese. In addition to giving birth to three publications, she and husband, Jerry Liu, a systems analyst, have three children: Eric, 22 a senior at Carnegie Mellon University; Steven, 22, a senior at Cornell University; and Stacy, 15, a sophomore at Manalapan High School. The family lives in Manalapan.
“They have been helping me (at the newspaper) since they were very little, maybe 6 or 7 years old,” Lee recalled. “They did labeling and then later they did computer data base entry.”
Born in Taiwan, Lee earned a bachelor of science degree from Tung Hai University there. She earned a masters of liberal arts in mass communications from Oklahoma City University in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. She then moved to New Jersey and started creating publications.
In 1991, soon after establishing Sino Monthly, Lee created the Sino Literature Award, which encourages Chinese writers to share their unique Chinese-American experiences in essays, poems and stories. It has grown to become a major Chinese literature event in the Chinese-American community. In addition, in the fall of 2010, Sino Monthly was a co-sponsor and Lee was a judge in the statewide student Autumn Festival Writing Contest of the Asian Food Markets supermarket chain.
This is not the first time the magazine and its editor have been honored. Sino Monthly received awards from the Independent Press Association in 2004 and 2005. Lee was included as an honored professional in Who’s Who in Executives and Business in 2001. She received the Outstanding Achievement in Community Business from the New Jersey Chinese American Chamber of Commerce in 2006. And Lee earned the Media Recognition Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness in 2007.
In the time left between family and business, Lee is involved with volunteer work on behalf of the Chinese community. She has served as an ethnic adviser for the Newark Museum from 2003-2006. She was appointed to the Manalapan Mayor’s Arts Council in 2002 and continues to serve. And she is a board member of the New Jersey Chinese Festival.
Through her work with Sino Monthly New Jersey and the Chinese Weekly News, Lee has been a strong supporter of the Organization of Chinese Americans New Jersey Chapter (oca-nj.com) – known for its strong support of scholarships and its advocacy work for the state’s Chinese and Asian/Pacific Islander communities.
“On behalf of the Asian Pacific American Community here, the OCA, and all of us as Americans, keep up what you keep doing,” Moly Hung, the event’s master of ceremonies, said. “And continue to display the spirit of what makes this country great.”