Serious journalism that remained fun

In January 1995 I met a bunch of free-wheeling Americans who spoke barely a word of Slovak beyond phrases such as 'Nick's Apache' (an attempt at the Slovak version of "here you go") or 'nice driveway' (Slovak for 'cheers'). When they told me they were determined to launch an English-language newspaper on March 1, my first reaction was "ha-ha."


Daniel Borský

In January 1995 I met a bunch of free-wheeling Americans who spoke barely a word of Slovak beyond phrases such as 'Nick's Apache' (an attempt at the Slovak version of "here you go") or 'nice driveway' (Slovak for 'cheers'). When they told me they were determined to launch an English-language newspaper on March 1, my first reaction was "ha-ha."

The 'preparatory committee' of this new venture was nestled in an apartment owned by one of the would-be founders. There I was told that a license for the business was being procured from the ministry, that their computer equipment was being shipped and their contract with a printing house was being negotiated. When I enquired about the new office address, they asked me, a guy who had come for a job interview: "Would you happen to know about some office space?"

Despite this rocky start, everything eventually clicked (I had, in fact, known about some vacant office space). We unwittingly found the modus operandi of this periodical. It didn't matter how many of us got sick (or boozed up) during the publication cycle, how many public holidays there were, how many computers crashed, how many stringers came up with the most ridiculous excuses for not delivering, or how many Mečiar government bigshots refused to speak to us, the paper always got to the news-stands on time.

This achievement was made possible only through an enormous commitment from the entire staff to delivering the best possible product. Despite having barely enough resources to publish this product, the Spectator introduced and championed standards that were virtually new to Slovak journalism: emphasis on correct facts and figures, using multiple sources, unbiased reporting, not mixing facts and opinions etc. The longer our paper was around, the more Slovak journalists (be it our stringers or our readers) I noticed following these principles in their own careers, which was the most rewarding feeling for me.

However, the entire Spectator adventure would have failed but for the true friendship between those close few who pulled the paper forward. Despite countless nights and weekends spent in the office, we never seemed to grow tired of each other. We even formed a basketball team called the 'Thirsty Monks', in an attempt to relieve whatever cabin fever built up. So thanks for three fun years of cold pizza and firing champagne corks out of office windows. And, err, happy birthday.

Daniel Borský served as Staff Writer, Associate Editor and Managing Editor with The Slovak Spectator from 1995-1998. He currently runs a private translating business in Bratislava.

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