26 Zenbakia 1999-03-19 / 1999-03-26


A few, but the best


A few, but the best A few, but the best * Translated to english from the original in basque Asier Aranguren 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 lion’s 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 worker’s. 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 validwill 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