One of Arlington's newspapers is so popular that every one of its 4,000 copies is snapped up within two hours after it hits the streets. Though it focuses on international, national and local news, it has been known to run such stories as the 50-year anniversary of Snow White and a recent layout of a handicapped woman in Playboy.
Despite its diversity, its readership is limited.
It's in Vietnamese.
Arlington, home to an estimated 7,000 to 8,000 Vietnamese immigrants, is also home to the Hoa Thinh Don Viet Bao, a free weekly tabloid. Loosely translated as the "Vietnamese newspaper in the Washington area," its editor, Nguyen Van Khanh, prefers to call it The Vietnamese Washington Post.
"We cover subjects that are small for America, but big for us," he said. "Vietnam is no longer big for most Americans, but to us it's still on the front page."
Khanh, a teacher of U.S. government and psychology at Washington and Lee High school, spends about 40 hours a week listening to the radio, reading newspapers, and watching network news before sitting down to translate into Vietnamese what he thinks might interest the 32,000 Vietnamese who live in the metropolitan area.
The front page generally carries two stories, one of national or international interest, the other of specific concern for its Vietnamese readers. Khanh also includes local events that involve the Vietnamese community, taking the pictures himself with the newspaper's only camera.
Publisher Giang Huu Tuyen, a former lieutenant in the Vietnamese navy, who came to the United States in 1975, founded the paper three years ago with a typewriter and $700 in cash. Today, he has a computer, a print shop, a darkroom, three employes, a $10,000 press outfitted with Vietnamese characters and an annual budget of $80,000.
"It has become my life," he said. "We want to unite the Vietnamese community, and build a stronger community."
For its editorial content, Khanh depends heavily on contributing writers who send in short stories and articles free of charge from as far away as California. He also reprints pieces from dozens of other Vietnamese newspapers across the nation, whose publishers have formed a cooperative journalistic network.
"Friends do things for friends," Khanh said.
The paper also is filled with notices from some of the area's 400 Vietnamese businesses, advertising restaurants, stores and local activities. And the ads themselves are a clue to how well established some of the Vietnamese are in Arlington: an ad for IMB Realty lists 15 Vietnamese Realtors, one of whom belongs to the million-dollar sales club.
If the community continues to grow, Khanh and Tuyen want to publish daily and sell subscriptions.
Every other week, Khanh reserves the middle section of the paper for Vietnamese high school and college students, where they tell their stories in their native language -- sometimes with a little help from Khanh. He doesn't want them to forget their language or culture, nor does he want the community to forget its young, he says.
In a large room with bare floors, odd bits of messages tacked to the wall and no air conditioning, Tuyen, Khanh and two production people put out the paper every 1st, 8th, 15th and 22nd of each month. If the papers are just a day late, which happens about every two months, Tuyen says he receives a number of calls from anxious readers. Tuyen calls that "encouraging."
"We wouldn't say that the community needs our paper, but it certainly would miss it if it wasn't there," he said. "It fits their demands very well."
One contributor, Pham Nam Sach, a former senator in Vietnam who now lives in San Diego, writes columns about the political situation in Vietnam. "Our purpose is twofold: to contribute to our people here and to help people back home," Khanh said.
They continue to serve their native country, he says, and any reports from their homeland are eagerly sought.
"We all still have a dream," he said, "that we can go back home again, that my country will be free again."