My father Cristian Ioanide started the Romanian Times in 2000 because he had a vision for the Romanian diaspora. Having lived in Portland since 1988, he felt that the community was missing a central site where Romanians could share and exchange ideas and information. He envisioned the newspaper as an open forum representing diverse viewpoints guided by the following principles:
1) Arguments should be carefully demonstrated without unnecessary sensationalism.
2) Articles should be researched and substantiated while omitting unfounded accusations; critiques should extend themselves toward propositions and solutions.
3) Articles should be of interest to the wider Romanian diasporic public as determined by the leadership of the Romanian Times.
You will note that the functioning principles of the newspaper reveal a particular distaste for sensationalist and unsubstantiated writing. This is because C. Ioanide had been trained by his father, Costache Ioanide to value the art of writing and the process by which a reader comes to understand a particular viewpoint or idea. Yet, a forum for good argumentative writing was not the only vision that drove the founding of the Romanian Times. Two other ideals guided the newspaper’s emergence, one global and the other local.
My father never returned to Romania after we emigrated. His distaste for what we had left behind continued many years after the fall of communism in the Eastern bloc. At times it seemed as if C. Ioanide had belonged to the Romania of his father’s generation more than the Romania in which he had lived most of his life. He longed for a country and culture driven by erudite intellectualism and idealism rather than banal pragmatism and political bankruptcy. It was the obliteration of political aspirations and idealism in Ceausescu’s Romania that C. Ioanide despised most. He had been personally affected by it, as had his father, as had many others. Since C. Ioanide was a person fundamentally driven by ideas, history, religion and the poetic realm, living in a culture and society that stifled all of those things must have felt a bit like a spiritual death.
I think my father established a newspaper where theology, politics, and the poetic realm would be nurtured as a way to deal with the persistent shadows of that stifling past. But it was also because he sought to build something. He sought to constitute a global community for the articulation of Romanian diasporic ideas and ideals in order to shape Romania’s emergence from the grasp of authoritarianism. C. Ioanide believed in this possibility not only because Romania’s intellectuals were already largely in exile all over the world. He believed that the Romanian diaspora had a unique perspective and understanding to offer those at home. The principles and political ideals shaped by a culture of uncensored discourse in the Romanian diaspora needed to influence the national agenda if any real sense of democracy was to be accomplished.
The second ideal that drove the founding of the Romanian Times was much more local. Cristian Ioanide imagined the newspaper as a place for Romanians in Portland and the Pacific Northwest to see themselves reflected as a community. In other words, the newspaper would enable the Romanian-American community to have formal representation. This would take place not only through articles that addressed local concerns; for the first time, Romanian businesses could advertise to each other and create a network for exchanging information, advertising and resources.
Take for example the classified section of the newspaper. This may very well be the most widely read page of the entire newspaper. Caregivers and foster home operators have a location for posting and seeking jobs. Real estate agents can advertise the specialized market of adult foster care homes. Insurance, tax and mortgage businesses can reach out to their most loyal client base.
The strength of any immigrant community is measured by the strength of its networks. Needless to say, churches have been the cornerstones of Portland’s Romanian diasporic community. But the Romanian Times has also been central to the development of community and belonging, both locally and globally. Each time I go to the Romanian Times’ website, I am amazed at the number of visitors we have from all over the world. But ultimately I know that the printed newspaper is also important, because it is a material representation of the local Romanian-American community in the Pacific Northwest.
You may have seen a recent cover story in Time magazine about the decline of the newspaper industry in the U.S. In a March 9, 2009 story entitled “The 10 Most Endangered Newspapers in America,” Time not only mentioned the recent closing of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain News but also claimed that the San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe and the New York Daily News are all in rapid decline.
As the Time cover story mentioned, however, the problem is not that people are no longer reading the news. On the contrary, newspapers have more readers than ever. Rather, it is that people are getting their news for free over the Internet. “According to a Pew Research Center study, a tipping point occurred last year: more people in the U.S. got their news online for free than paid for it by buying newspapers and magazines.” (Feb. 5, 2009)
The key revenue for any newspaper has traditionally depended on newsstand sales, subscriptions and advertising. The Internet model currently depends solely on advertising. When advertising decreases (for example, because of an economic recession), then the whole newspaper institution potentially folds.
Unlike traditional newspapers, the Romanian Times operated from the very beginning as a newspaper whose revenues were derived solely from advertising sources. Because the vision that drove the founding of the newspaper was driven by a desire to build community, the Romanian Times has always been free. Subscribers only pay for the cost of shipping.
You might imagine that the Romanian Times, like other newspapers, has not remained immune to the effects of the economic depression. In fact, much of the newspaper’s operation in the past has depended on generous financial support from benefactors who also shared in Cristian Ioanide’s vision of community building and forum for ideas. Additionally, the majority of the labor involved in the production of the newspaper has been voluntary. It is a fact that charitable donations decline in times of economic recession, as do advertising sales. As a result, the Romanian Times’ operational budget is currently facing tremendous challenges.
We are now at a crossroads. We as a community, both global and local, must decide whether the remarkable network of ideas, businesses and people reflected in the Romanian Times is something we are willing to collectively participate in preserving. If it is, then I encourage you to do the following: 1) continue advertising in the newspaper; 2) encourage others to advertise their businesses in the newspaper; 3) make charitable contributions to the newspaper; 4) pay for shipping and distribution costs to your churches and businesses; 5) donate your expertise and time to sustain the production of the newspaper.
It is in times of crisis and hardship that our faith and commitment to community are tested the most. It is easy to praise God when times are good, but even more important to praise God in times of hardship. It is my most sincere hope that our actions will serve the good of the community rather than remain constrained by the scope of self-interest.
Community… in Print and Action
- Scris de Paula Ioanide PhD
- Categorie: Paula Ioanide