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TSS memories: fear, fatigue and friends

I remember getting intoxicated, literally and figuratively, in late October 1994 with the idea of starting an English-language newspaper in a country we knew little about.
I remember the fear of failure. I remember drastically switching our advertising strategy after haemorrhaging 2/3 of our start-up capital in the first six months.


Richard Lewis

I remember getting intoxicated, literally and figuratively, in late October 1994 with the idea of starting an English-language newspaper in a country we knew little about.

I remember the fear of failure. I remember drastically switching our advertising strategy after haemorrhaging 2/3 of our start-up capital in the first six months.

I remember smug satisfaction. One of the best occasions was when Leighton Klevana, then the president of the Slovak-American Enterprise Fund, said he was giving us only a few months to survive. We made believers out of many more doubters.

I remember fatigue. Good, old-fashioned tiredness, but of the sweet variety when you knew you had given it your all the entire night before to put the paper to bed.

I remember frustration. Nagging spelling errors, punctuation miscues and typos. Some of it had to do with software glitches. Most with human error.

I remember fights. I remember when our associate editor and only staff writer threatened to quit if a sinister picture of Prime Minister Mečiar wasn't used on the cover after the botched referendum. The picture wasn't used, but the editorial was born. They were both wise decisions.

I remember celebrity. I met people I ordinarily would have - perhaps should have - had no business meeting. One of them was named Michal Kováč. I remember at our meeting at the spangled Primacialny Palac, he asked: "Ako sa Vam pačia slovenské dievčata?" ('how do you like Slovak girls?').

I remember fear, and being fined by the tax authorities for not exhibiting the proper sign outside our offices. We all wondered whether this was the first volley in a governmental fusillade to shut us down. It wasn't.

I remember unexpected bursts of camaraderie. Once, after an all-nighter, we saw the first cascades of a brilliant sunrise. We rushed up the stairs to Slavín, enraptured, to watch it enfold us.

Most of all, though, I remember the friends I made putting out a newspaper that I think has served as a lifeline to most expatriates and has redefined how some Slovaks view journalism. The day of partisan press has passed. Real freedom comes with an open, balanced press, Great people have made The Slovak Spectator that way. Thank you all, my friends, for your help. You are more than colleagues: you are friends for life.

Richard Lewis is a founding co-owner of The Slovak Spectator. He worked at the paper as Editor and Publisher from its birth until August 1998. Now he is a reporter at the Tribune in Ames, Iowa.

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