The Half-Century, and Highlights

Becoming a media ecosystem, combining text and images in print and digital media so that people can learn, discuss, be entertained and educated with content that never dies, is the multimedia Editorial proposal 50 years after its birth, October 21, 1965

By: Various Authors


2015-10-21 | 18:39:05 EST
Becoming, ecosystem, combining text, images, print and digital media, people, learn, discuss, entertained, educated, content, multimedia, Editorial, proposal, 50 years, after its birth, October 21, 1965Becoming, ecosystem, combining text, images, print and digital media, people, learn, discuss, entertained, educated, content, multimedia, Editorial, proposal, 50 years, after its birth, October 21, 1965 Photo: Juventud RebeldeZoom
It is 2.30 in the afternoon. At this time, any day of the year except Sundays, Juventud Rebelde takes a well-deserved short break as, since early morning, they stop sensing the agitated footsteps of his editors, journalists, designers, editors, photographers, computer staff and drivers.
At that time the phone sounds in all newsrooms calling to the Council, the editorial space where they decide what Cuba will read next day on the printed pages.
The agenda of issues is the highlight of the debate between the heads of the creative teams and the media management.
What´s the news? What worries on the street? What is said of Cuba on social networks and other Internet spaces? What do we have for today? Invariably asks Marina Menendez Quintero, the director for the last two years.
Citizen dissatisfaction arises then, the reluctance of some sources of information, transport problems and the proposals of the group of journalists that have set up the discrete exercise spearheaded against bureaucracies and inefficiencies.
"JR reaches the age of 50 converted into a multimedia platform, with a team of competent professionals and a publishing strategy that seeks to articulate the public and the media agenda," says Yailín Orta Rivera, a young deputy director who defends the predominant professional culture here, where the idea that in journalism the creative leaders are more important than ordinary heads if they want to develop environments for innovation and teamwork to take hold.
But, warns Ricardo Ronquillo Bello, winner of this year´s July 26 National Journalism Award, that "the newspaper has not always kept in a linear fashion the spirit and the dream of a distinctive and irreverent journalism. So when some people tell us that they feel it is not as before, it hurts us very much."
Luckily, as a tradition, the editorial commitment is to the development of projects that place the public at the centre and builder of our agenda. And it stimulates among the reporters the  conducting of thesis and research journalism, in addition to the journalism of opinion among whose signatures have highlighted Gabriel García Márquez, Enrique Núñez Rodríguez, Graziella Pogolotti, Armando Hart, to mention a few of the most important collaborators, believes the writer.

Sleepless Nights

When JR was red, blue and black and was based in the workshops on Prado and Teniente Rey 50 years ago, the dynamics were similar to this one in 2015.
Juan Ayús García, was the head of the founding team in charge of the design, and later deputy director of visual communication, talks about the first day in the journal.
“Where was I on October 21, 1965? I was on Prado Street, on the 4th floor of the old Diario de la Marina, waiting for the revelation of the mystery around the name. When we knew it, we started to work with what was conceived as main news”, he retold.
He was 28 when Commander in chief Fidel Castro announced the creation of the newspaper, during the summary of the activities for the composition of the Cuban Youth Movement and the opening ceremony of the first National Sport Games.
“(...) It will begin in the space of La Tarde newspaper, destined for the youth, with things attractive for the youth, but it should try to be done with quality, so the things written there can interest everyone (...)”, said Fidel, then, Prime Minister of the Revolutionary Government.
And right there, at the Pedro Marrero stadium, the name of the new means of communication was collectively defined.
About its relevance, Fidel expressed: “Then, I think that this newspaper will start out tomorrow, and its name is Juventud Rebelde, which means a step forward on the revolutionary path, another step toward communism.”
So, it was. The first edition went around on October 22 with 16 pages, in tabloid size, and it remained like that for about three months when it changed because the initial readership declined from 65,000 to 45,000. Then it changed into sheet size and a month later the readership rose to 80,000.
“Early in the morning there was always a management board meeting to define what this edition would bring and my section was supposed to deliver it at 8:00 am. We worked in a rush before closure time, which was at 12:00 or 1:00 pm. At 4:00 in the afternoon in theory, the newspaper should be on the beat”, he tells about the dynamics of the first decades of founder Pedro Herrera, who created the (What´s new?) Que hay de Nuevo? section, the oldest of all still in the newspaper today.
Today 200,000 copies are printed (from Tuesday to Saturday) and 250,000 on Sundays. The keen exercise of opinion journalism and column-writing, the dignified criticism, as well as the tradition of a narrative and literary style breaking with the propaganda, prompted the Cubans preference for Sunday´s editions and the newspaper at large.
En los tiempos de Ñañá Seré (Back in the old days) and Desapolillando (Recovering archives) by reporter Guillermo Lagarde; 4, 3, 2, 1 Fire!, by Ángel Travieso; En 3 y 2, by Eddy Martin; Por el ojo de la aguja (Through the eye of the needle), by Soledad Cruz, and the Sunday Column by Enrique Núñez Rodríguez, were spaces in the top of popularity.
Among the most recent ones, according to the Readership Survey carried out this year by the Social Research Team of JR, two of the most followed are (Acknowledgement of Receipt) Acuse de Recibo and (Sex Safety) Sexo Sentido.
“I deem Acuse de Recibo as a window to Cuba´s democracy. It´s a wide open window, which cannot ever be closed. If they bolted it, if that happened, we would lose everything we have gained, which is quite a lot, since it is a section where the people express how they feel about the daily life in this country. It´s not a cold mailbox. There´s a person behind confident of what people say”, said journalist José Alejandro Rodríguez, in charge of this section since 1997 and José Martí Award National prize-winner.
Editor of Sexo Sentido since its foundation in 2000 Mileyda Menéndez Dávila, who said that every year the youth asks about 600 or 700 questions to this section, which is in turn “attractive for social researchers because of its 15 years listening to what nobody is told about.”
“We use an anthropologic methodology for our job, surveys, polls, the social media, or I post a question on the forum and the people come up with solutions. The whole page is based around that feedback”, she noted.           

The Editorial Department

The Combined Granma Printworks has been the venue of JR since January, 1987. This is a place with a lot of glass like an exceptional viewpoint for observing the life of the newspaper, and it works like the central editorial office.
The Culture department is among the departments that has the greatest tradition. The defense of the training function of the media and the exercise of opinion are distinctive elements in the Culture page, as well as in other spaces and sections.
The Chief Editor José Luis Estrada Betancourt said that «We are distinguished for writing articles of great depth for promoting the work of the most important Cuban artists and intellectuals. In addition, artistic-literary criticism has been constantly present, not only in our journalists, but also in collaborators like Rufo Caballero, Osvaldo Cano, Frank Padrón and Joel del Río.  And we were the first ones to use on-line interviews to talk direct with the artists. »
For its part, the Sports page is among those that count on the most faithful followers. «We try to make a design which readers of every age like, and we bet on fresh language and titles that are characteristic and attractive by tradition, » explained Reporter Raiko Martín, who has been in Sport for eight years, and for some time has been in charge of the Sports team.
He said that «As we are in Cuba, baseball is the strongest topic. However, thanks to the increase in the taste for football, readers ask us to comment on the different leagues. There are a lot of followers of volleyball, chess, basketball..., whom we try to please. »
We talked with Juana Carrasco, a journalist with 49-years´ experience on international topics and winner of the José Martí Journalism national award, in one of the corridors of the Publishing House.
«I would like the International page to be characterized by being eminently a page of opinion and commented news. That it could be something more than simple information of the events, and that it would help the reader to understand the world situation, which is complex and chaotic. But, space is against us.
«However, we do it as frequent as we can, though this page has a commitment to the Cuban foreign policy, like the Granma newspaper, which means that in certain circumstances we are not offering the news that is around the world as the most important; but news that is in correspondence with the Cuban interests. No press is an apolitical press, » she explained.
And in Photography, out on the border of the editorial department, the photographer Juan Moreno, who is proud of being the worker with the most active working years in JR, makes a recall, over and over, of the old memories of the press for the new generation, as he wants to fix those memories.   
In addition, Dedeté, the humorous platform, promotes and defends the avant-garde humor. And the leader of this project Adán Iglesias Toledo says: «ddt can count among its members the best of the graphic artists in Cuba. At present, we are four teams, and its publication is, I believe, in a privileged place because the fact that a medium like JR keeps us and defends our work is recognition for the Cuban humor. »
The venue of Opciones, a weekly financial, commercial and tourist magazine published by JR since January 30, 1994, is other of the indispensable departments, because it finances with its incomes some of the expenditure of the Publishing House and its own publication.
«We are devoted to promote foreign investment, new business, tourism, finances. And we are characterized by something that was not present in the informative press: the inclusion of advertisements and this is what is producing the income. Later, we made special supplements for joint ventures and national enterprises, agricultural fairs, provincial governments, and finally the web-page emerged. The entire 20-years investment is more than half a million CUC that have been reinvested in JR, » summarized one of the founders and the editor of this publication Chabela Fernández Garrido.
And, there are also the JR reporters, outside this building and the cosmopolitan life in Havana.
The 24-years-old correspondent Yunet López works in Mayabeque. She is also the most recent «acquisition» of the team which had its pick on May, 1969 when Julián Grimau of the National School for Correspondents began to work.
«The work in the provinces has its own charm because it allows knowing the territory deeply and showing the daily worries of the youth in the provinces, » she commented in Facebook.   
However, every article published by JR has to go first to the hands of professionals whose names are not published, but they are well-known in JR. They are the members of Writing, Design and Correction, who are carefully visualizing and checking the pages, one data after the other, until very late in the night. In addition, the administrative and service departments are present, because the existence of this multiplatform will be not possible without these departments.

The digital ecosystem

JR was always a big publishing house. Under its sign, and humorous supplements El Sable and La Chicharra saw the light, or cultural like El Caimán Barbudo. It also published special tabloids and magazines such as Somos Jovenes.
But the view Yurisander Zaila Guevara, one of the youngest assistant principals, is that it still must advance, especially in the field of communication on the Internet, an area in which he specialized as chief editor of the newspaper´s website.
It went online for the first time in July 1997. Since then, with more and more agility, its team instantaneously covers major news events concerning the country and uses the social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube as channels of information with a high number of followers.
"Digital journalism is evolving in Cuba generally, but not fast enough. In JR, fortunately, we have journalists and other specialists behind the publications, plus a development group for multimedia products," he says.
Another development was the launch, in January 2004, of an intranet, now modernized with the talent of young people coming out of the universities, which enables access of almost all staff to information vital for the production flow.
"It is not only to inform, but to convert the media into digital ecosystems where people can be informed, entertained and educated with content that never dies," he explains while specifying the other three platforms that make up, along with the newspaper´s website, the Editorial web universe.
This is the digital version of the weekly Opciones, the humorous supplement ddt and the Soy Cuba site, focused on very young users to whom they provide a blogging service, private messaging, calls and lots of interaction.
Today, here, almost everything is marked by digitalization. Teleworking, Online coverage, the opening of personal blogs and participation in cyber debates with those who consume their texts, have become practices born of modernity.
Although, there are still entrenched traditions. In JR, journalism is believed in as the checks and balances of society, in the development of forms of strategic planning having in its centre the public interest, and in the ability to continue as a school of good journalism, where the important thing is to make both the workers grow and those who read us.
Translated by ESTI

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