It’s always nice to remember how everything started out. What once seemed like a nightmare at the time or was done with puppy-like enthusiasm seems like an entertaining adventure over time. This is the case if you don’t think out loud. If you think out loud – for younger generations, for those who didn’t know, didn’t experience it, didn’t smell the gunpowder, or for those who don’t understand anything at all – the entire story immediately takes on a didactic undertone and is covered with the flair of ironic experience.
Before you is the first issue of Novaya Gazeta. You can look it over and read it, there is actually a lot to read. But using the right of the guard, I would like to tell the story of how it was actually born (I have already described how the newspaper itself was born).
I’ll start with the finale, when the two rooms in which the editorial office was located (I don’t count the office where all the bosses sat) were flooded with bundles of newspapers. At that time (1993), journalists weren’t very practical and therefore found it difficult to conceive the fate of a newspaper after the editor-in-chief put the final touch on the front page. The brain just doesn’t register right away that the product that you sculpted with pain, tears and controversy for the last few weeks has to be sent somewhere else.
Of course, retail took some of the copies. But now we clearly understand that retail only takes what someone else has taken and, most importantly, purchased. Therefore, we got rid of the first issue in any way we could. The first Novaya Gazeta editor-in-chief, Sergei Kozheurov (now general director of Novaya Gazeta Publishing House), packed his trunk full of newspaper bundles and took them to only address he knew. Yours truly, columnist Zoya Yeroshokand verification bureau director Valentina Semyonovna Tikhomirova stood in the underground passageway at Pushkinskaya and handed out the newspapers to credulous Muscovites as gifts.
Our colleagues sneered at us since the issue date of the first issue – 1 April – justified itself from the very beginning. We paid no attention to their spite and firmly believed that people would be ripping a million copies of Novaya Gazeta out of our hands within a year. Sure, we were naïve, but that’s not a crime. In order to understand our pride over the work we had done, you would have to create your own newspaper at least once in your life. Preferably in the same way we did.
With no salary.
With two computers and one dot matrix printer, which is detestable and never stops screeching.
In three rooms provided to us temporarily.
With one proofreader. (Poor Tanya Fyodorova – I think she started to hate letters, punctuation and everyone who put it all on paper after that first issue).
Without layout designers or typesetters. Being the enthusiasts that we were, we split up into three teams: one day we were journalists, another day we were typesetters, and another day we were (the most advanced) layout designers.
The latter was the most difficult because even Komsomolskaya Pravda, which we had all left, was still using a hot-metal typesetting machine, while the number of personal computers could be counted on one hand. It’s only now that we have started to understand at least some of the rules for layout, while back then journalists who had made it to the newspaper world tried to squeeze three pages into one. Well, I can’t cut them down?!
Macintoshes were put in front of us, the monitors were turned on, a mouse was put in our hand, and we were off. The layout designers at Moscow News, where we were located at the time, came to the rescue in emergencies.
Sometimes it was frustrating. We tried and worked on the layout deep into the night, the next shift came and re-did it, then the third shift would do the same. When the shift schedule brought you back to the layout machine again, only the numeration from the previous page you did would be left. And sometimes not even that.
The most terrifying part of the work was putting the page onto paper. Nobody knew how to do this – an option needed to be put on the menu so the printer wouldn’t choke from our creation. And it choked all the time since any page could contain an enormous amount of technical errors.
We were training one journalist and relieved him of all his duties for a day just before an issue was to come out, waiting with bated breath as he cast a spell over the computer, cursed out the printer and, like magic, brought us a finished page.
Of course, the first issue was approved in the wee hours. The wife of the editor-in-chief brought dinner for the whole shift crew which was not enough since the shift crew included plainly everyone.
Almost eight years have passed already. But the tradition remains: each issue is like the final one, like the defence of the Brest Fortress and the taking of Berlin.
Only a few of those who worked so hard on the first issue remain at the editorial office. Fate has scattered them around different editorial offices, programmes and press services. But when we meet, we are always glad to acknowledge that we actually managed to invent and implement our most successful April Fool’s Day joke.
- Mikhail Khodorkovsky: Hes just afraid of competition When Putin says that he never does his friends in, this is because he is afraid to get on the wrong side of the siloviki who are close to him. From the correspondence between the editors and Mikhail Khodorkovsky, inmate of Correctional Facility 7 of the Federal Penitentiary Service Directorate for the Republic of Karelia, the city of Segezha
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