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To the left, the cover of the book that inspired the production of the first edition of AL DIA. On the right, una of the first covers, produced on a newsletter format.   AL DÍA News
To the left, the cover of the book that inspired the production of the first edition of AL DIA. On the right, una of the first covers, produced on a newsletter format.   AL DÍA News

Home-made Journalism | OP-ED

I hammered out with enthusiasm in my living room in North Philadelphia what I believe that was the last hurdle in my way to become an independent journalist,…

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To do journalism in North Philadelphia in 1991 it was necessary to have a hammer, a dozen nails, and some pieces of wood you could buy in Home Depot.

To be in the publishing business, in addition to the MAC personal computer, two more pieces of technology were needed:

A laser printer and a light box.

The first one was required to print the composed copy, and the second to piece together and paste up on boards the columns, headlines and blank boxes where the half-toned pictures would also be cut and glued onto the board, in the patient process to complete the camera-ready page going, at long last, to the printer.

The laser printer, I remembered, we bought with a blessing that came from heaven in the form of a IRS tax refund check we got in the year 1992. Like with the MAC computer, it was an investment of exactly $2,200 dollars, this time paid in cash.

The only piece of technology I couldn’t buy was the “light box”. It wasn’t available anywhere, not even in the Arts supplies store where I had bought the knife to cut the paper, the rulers to cut it straight, and the glue to paste up the pages.

I decided to set out to build that last piece of technology with my own hands.

University of Iowa’s Professor Bill Zima, who died in 2012, came again to my rescue.

One of few books he asked us to buy for his “Desktop Publishing” class in the University’s School of Journalism was one entitled “How to Produce a Small Newspaper, A Guide for Independent Journalists”, authored by a couple who decided to start a small community newspaper —the Harvard Post— in a small town in Massachusetts and were caring enough to write at the end a volume about their experience.

I was one reader who ripped with enthusiasm the pages dedicated to “how to build a light box,” indispensable to finish the pre-press process of newspaper production in my own home.

The light box came to life days later after reading the instructions more than once, and a visit to the Home Depot store where I found, down to the nails, all the list of items listed in the book’s section entitled “How to Build a Light Box”.

A switch, electrical cables, the actual lights, and the translucent glass to put on top of the square frame made of wood, carefully cut and pieced together with nails that I hammered out with enthusiasm as I believe that was the last hurdle in my way to become an independent journalist.

I had no idea at the time what was about to happen in the world of digital publishing, immersed as I was in my little world of trying to produce a modest newspaper, not “out of a garage”, but in the living room of my home, as my very modest residence in the Olney section of North Philadelphia even lacked the providential “garage” of the feverish and foolish inventor.

The piece of technology that was about to hit the publishing world again was called the Web Browser, that other invention that further disrupted the news publishing business,

The piece of technology that was about to hit the publishing world again was called the Web Browser, that other invention that further disrupted the news publishing business,

And also gave the new dreamers the illusion, once again, that you could be not only the publisher in your neighborhood, as I was, or of the city, as I became, but also of the entire nation and the globe, all from the comfort from your living room.

Desktop publishers on print have come and are mostly gone, as writers and bloggers using the web browser have come and now are also gone, one on top of the other, all leaving behind a formidable cemetery of overestimated and now obsolete technology tools—  from the big printing presses, junked by the Gannett corporation all over the nation, down to my first little MAC I rescued from going to the trash and now sits in AL DIA’s office as a reminder to the new generations of the possibilities unfolding in front of them.

“The golden era of journalism” Andrew Sullivan proclaimed in 2008 is about to start as the human passion for freedom of expression goes on undeterred, using a new set of technology tools available to us to recreate self-sustaining journalism projects that may make, once again, the dream of independent journalism possible.

A new glimmer of hope is beginning to show in the horizon for us, after the implosion of the newspaper empires, and the upcoming disruption of the broadcast industry.

American media, confronted not so much by a technology revolution, is now forced to reimagine a new media for a nation disrupted by a large-scale transformation of larger proportions:

The emergence of the richest diversity of readers in the English Language ever seen in our country in its 250 years of history, made more visible today than ever in the past by 62 million of Americans of Hispanic descent who live today in the United States of America, the most multicultural nation in the world. z

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