AL DIA Becomes a Weekly
A monthly newsletter in year one turned itself into a bi-weekly newspaper in year two, before becoming a weekly in year three. We haven’t stopped printing our weekly since then.
The first two or maybe three editions of AL DIA were printed in a newsletter format — 8.5 inches by 11 inches — easier to lay out on the computer screen, way easier to get fast content for, and easy to print from the computer directly to the laser machine in one pass.
They were eight pages I put together briskly in the evenings and early mornings, before going to a job I was finally able to land thanks to my friend Alba Martinez, then-executive director of Congreso de Latino Unidos.
After my failed attempt to get a writing position at the Philadelphia Daily News, where she was a columnist, and, thanks to her, I was able to submit my resume, I settled for being her Research Assistant in Congreso’s AIDS program.
I would drop my daughter at her elementary school in Olney and drive down 2nd street, from Roosevelt Boulevard all the way down to Girard, where Congreso’s AIDS program operated.
The salary earned from Congreso, and the salary my wife Elizabeth earned from Cardone Industries, were enough to pay our expenses:
Rent, food, clothes, and the new bill:
The one from Park Printing, where Don Reed — senior and junior, father and son— were happy to print Colombia AL DIA, as long as we could pay the invoice in advance.
The merchants I took the publication to were mostly of Colombian origin, and the news in the publication were connected to their country or origin, Colombia, where I came from in 1988.
Front cover of the first edition, I remember, was the about the celebration of Colombian Independence Day in Philadelphia, graced by a photo of a couple dancing in a party hosted in the German Club in northeast Philadelphia.
Then front cover of the first edition, I remember, was the about the celebration of Colombian Independence Day in Philadelphia, graced by a photo of a couple dancing in a party hosted in the German Club in northeast Philadelphia by Arturo Suárez, a former owner of a night club on 5th Street who used to organize the gathering every year.
That first edition of the publication is lost to history, impossible to find in our files, and the files of the people who got a copy of it in 1992. But I clearly remember the front cover of this early AL DÍA edition, with a picture I took of a gracious “caleña” (a young lady from Cali, Colombia) who graced the cover printed on glossy paper.
I did it two or three times more, every month, as a part-time publisher, until I realized the word “Colombia” on the masthead wouldn’t take me far, given the small size of the community. On top of that, the inevitable pranksters were beginning to call the publication not Colombia AL DÍA, but Colombia AL MES, because of its delayed monthly frequency.
I made two business decision at once: drop the word “Colombia” from the masthead, calling the publication simply AL DÍA, and changed the format from newsletter to newspaper tabloid format because of another simple business reason:
To print eight pages of the newsletter, 1,000 copies, was about the same price as printing a tab newspaper, 16 pages and 3,000 copies.
I had no idea what the expansion would mean, but I only saw more space to write stories, and more space to accommodate the advertisers we didn’t have yet. It meant many more long hours, and eventually spending the whole night hammering out the final details to finish the job before deadline.
But it got done, and I was the proud publisher of a tabloid-size newspaper rebranded simply as AL DÍA. It was published not once a month, but every other week, doubling up again the possibilities, but also the hours I spent in front of the computer and bending over the light box to piece it all together.
A young salesman who had come to my rescue to help me sell advertising forced me to make my next business move.
It was to go from a black-and-white tabloid printed twice a month, to a weekly newspaper we needed to get done, “camera ready,” every Wednesday
Either you publish every week, the young salesman told me, or I will have to quit.
The only way for me to make a living, he said, is if you publish every week, as the rest of the newspapers do.
We made AL DIA a weekly the following week, just to try.
Of course, there was no way back, and we haven’t stopped since publishing a weekly print edition.