It is now ten years since Arrasate Press
was set up or since Ttipi-ttapa attained its objective to become a free
fortnightly publication. The model that has been most successful in the
local press in Basque has already been identified: a weekly or fortnightly
free publication, edited by its own contributors, financed with public subsidies
and advertising, the contents
of which do not disturb almost anybody and written in unified Basque. Of
course, these characteristics conform a general profile, and each village
or region has adapted the model to the features of its own environment.
Dissemination is the next step after reputation and audience. The initial
magazines had the impact of any new invention and the news spread among
the "euskerazales" (the supporters of the Basque language) faster
than the flu. Over the last few years many different projects have been
started and the weakest of them have floundered, in accordance with the
theory of the survival of the strongest, and nowadays, the impetus seems
to have calmed down, as is always the case with such crazes.
However, with respect to the Basque local press, the main data are well
known: approximately 50 publications, and 400.000 readers.
I would add some more data: Some 100 paid workers. And since they are
the ones who make the magazines, I now wish to look into those who toil
in the Basque local press.
Let those who are not acquainted with the context of such work be warned:
in the Basque local press there are two different types of workers: those
with university degrees who are on the payrolls and the volunteers, who
thus contribute to their communities or make their dreams come true. This,
of course, does not mean that all those who are paid have a university degree
(although this is normally the case), nor does it mean that the volunteers
lack university degrees (what they certainly do not have is a salary). The
longer the frequency of the magazine (quarterly, bimonthly), the more voluntary
work and the less paid labour there is behind them. However, although also
in the weekly magazines the lions share of the work is on the shoulders
of a group of remunerated people, there are always people who
contribute with their work and their time free of charge.
In my opinion the voluntary work is a necessary help, and one has to
pamper them with gratefulness. I have no doubts in this regard. But the
responsibility is the workers. Just as in any other activity, the
work that has to be undertaken to properly deliver the publication to weekly
-fortnightly -monthly magazines, has to be in the hands of professionals.
Even if all these people who work voluntarily went to the circus to see
the trapeze artists, or drank tequila under the sun in the Caribbean, or
made an excursion to go to a dance, those of us who remain here must deliver
the magazine punctually in the readers homes. That is the objective,
that is to say, not to depend on the changes that take place in the life
of the volunteers.
But to fulfil this objective, the person that works in the Basque local
press must be contracted under honourable conditions.
It is true that there was a time when the local press was the first job
for those who had just received their degrees and who lacked experience;
it is also true that these workers were young ten years ago; it is true
that they are small groups of workers and that specialisation is not easy;
it is true that in some instances, the regional press has been the starting
point that some have used to jump to greater endeavours... Yes, indeed,
but all these truths are but a variable reality.
Those who lacked experience have since typeset heaps of texts, they have
set the layout of heaps of pages and they have sold heaps of advertisements
since then; after 10 years, we all have aged the same number of years, we
have calmed down and we have often united; whoever is really valid will
be off to the larger media, if he or she is lucky and longs to have friends;
but local magazines will continue having small work forces for a long time.
I also want to contribute with another couple of thoughts in connection
with this reality. As we are dealing with small work forces, the character
of the leader exerts a tremendous influence on the content, the aspect and
the orientation of the magazine. The same thing happens with groups of friends,
in expeditions or parishes. One must be alert, therefore, when selecting
the directing or directress of one of these magazines, since the
contents, to a considerable degree, will be a reflection of his or her character
(more or less sport, a radically new design, the prevalence of contents
on the Basque language, a clear-cut ideology, the distinction between us
and them, the dialect ...).
Another fact: of the approximately 100 workers that are paid to work,
somewhat more than half have a part-time or an hourly contract, and among
them, some even lack a written contract. If we wish to put the product in
the hands of professionals, if we want them to be responsible and if what
we want is excellence, the labour situation must be necessarily dignified.
Because it is a job, not a militancy. And to conclude, yet another reflection:
the journalists, the designers, the managers, the publicists, all certainly
have intuition and some formidable ideas (so my mother says, so I have been
told by my friends, so I was told by my girlfriend...) but it is convenient
to ask the readers, because it is necessary take into account and to research
on who we are making the magazine for, and there are scientific means for
this. Thus, if we want the magazine to be good, attractive and legible,
then we must leave in the hands of the best. Just a few, but the best.
Asier Aranguren, journalist, professor
at the University of the Basque Country