The 'García Márquez' newsroom is now located in Philadelphia
Before the so called "Hospital Model of Journalism Education," now promoted by the Knight Foundation became a fashionable thing to do, Gabriel García Márquez envisioned the perfect formula for teaching the young.
With the money he earned in Stockholm he wanted to start a new newspaper in Bogotá, Colombia, "in which." he said, "the average age of the staff was 25."
He knew, somehow, that such a newsroom — crazy as it sounded three decades ago —was going to be the genesis of a new journalism never before seen on the continent.
Young people, full of energy and passion, in need of a salary and, more importantly, a place to learn, would flourish — working under the tutelage of experienced leaders, with insight to guide the zest and creativity of the younger generation.
Before the so called "Hospital Model of Journalism Education" now promoted by the Knight Foundation, became a fashionable thing to do, García Márquez envisioned the perfect formula for teaching the young using the experience of old, and employing the wisdom of the latter to guide the enthusiasm of the first, without one stifling the other.
García Márquez spoke of such a setting for new journalism before schools of journalism became as common as law schools, and as fashionable as medical schools.
Also before the news media industry turned journalism into a professional activity that, in countries like Colombia, even the government "regulated" to the point of issuing "a professional license" to practice it.
The Colombian Nobel Prize came from one of the most difficult societies in terms of the practice of independent journalism on the continent, and perhaps because of that García Márquez was alert to support the cause of independent publishing.
He dreamt of this newspaper, but years before he had also supported — with his money, the prestige of his name, and the value of his writing skills — a national news magazine in Bogotá titled ALTERNATIVA, with an entire generation of young writers, among them, Enrique Santos Calderón, who (unlike his relatives who owned EL TIEMPO) used his pen to rail against the inequalities of Colombian society.
ALTERNATIVA was closed (despite Enrique Santos' and Gabriel García Márquez's involvement) after the offices were bombed and its finances were subjected to a war of attrition by major advertisers in the country acting in sync against the "challenge" they perceived the new publication represented to their economic and political interests.
His newspaper was never born, a child of García Márquez's mind that, for all his fortune, never got to see light of the day.
Now, after the writer's death last week in Mexico City, a stream of memories came rushing from the limited knowledge we have of the life and work of this continental master.
One of them was this "dream publication."
Not because we feel a calling to take on this burden ourselves, but because we want to do something to honor García Márquez's memory here in our adopted hometown of Philadelphia, we have decided to name the AL DÍA newsroom, on Market Street, the "Gabriel García Márquez Newsroom," where currently a total of six journalism school graduates, under 30 years old, are experiencing what is hard to match in any other news media company in the country.
Twenty-somethings, all of them with a diploma from a j-School, "learn by doing" and are guided more than 50 years of accumulated experience from the senior editorial personnel at AL DÍA.
This is just the beginning, as we want to do more, and even help other news organizations (through the AL DÍA Foundation) to train their new reporters on multicultural, multimedia and multilingual platforms.
In this exceptional setting, we are doing exceptional work, producing some of the best journalism in Philadelphia.
¡Sí, García Márquez vive!
An oil painting, to be unveiled in the near future in our office, will remind every visitor of why.(*) Hernán Guaracao is the Founder & Chairman of the AL DÍA Foundation, and the Founder & CEO of AL DÍA News Media, Philadelphia's premiere Latino News Media organization for more than 20 years.