centenary of _the republic
CONTENT CURATOR_ Team Management
"UFO Sighted in Mexico Turned Out to
be a Gadget Driven by a Mexican Dwarf!"
He made us an offer we couldn't refuse. Telling 100 years of History with the news that stayed out of the spotlight. The source was "Diário de Notícias". A newspaper founded in 1864, and the most prestigious of the national press. We were to create the collectibles for the Centenary Celebration of the Republic. "The stories never told by History" were distributed daily over 30 issues. A project that no hundred years will make me forget.
This was not the first intricate project we got our hands on. But this was not an ordinary one, especially when invited by the Deputy Director himself. Nothing could prepare us for what was about to come. The idea alone: to review, curate and select content from 100-year newspapers, before they were even editable in the digital library.
A brand new world
At the very first contact with the project, we knew it would take more time than we predicted. This, of course, had the sweet hues of the honeymoon phase. “How could we possibly just 'take a look' at it?” We were at the heart of the Historical Archives of the oldest newspaper in Portugal. We couldn't just ignore headlines like “Café-thief stole Dr. Afonso Costa's car"; pass the Loch Ness' monster stories; or skip the official reports declaring the Roswell UFO was, after all, a gadget driven by a Mexican dwarf. We wanted to read it all, stare at pictures, collect the beautiful advertising of the time. How could we not?
The honeymoon, however, came with a bit of a shocker. Our 1st workplace was known as “The Catacombs”. Located in the lowest and deepest section of Diario de Notícias' building. A huge area full of information. (Allow me to rephrase: A mahoosive place, built in the 40s, 'heavy-loaded', 'seriously-packed' and 'bursting with it'.) To get there, we had to pass through railing gates, padlocks, code numbers and giant volts. And no, in case you're wondering, there was no air conditioning.
It all seemed like heaven. A steaming hot, tight and mites-full heaven. On the first day, one of the journalists had such a violent allergic reaction that he had to stay in bed. (He never came back.) Still, we had 100 years of research ahead, times two daily editions (Jornal de Notícias & Diário de Notícias) and page numbers growing every year. That was pretty much enough to keep our eyes on the ball.
We had a lot of emotional detachment to do. And a lot of SRT - that's for Speed Reading Technique in case you're lucky enough not to need it. It was exhausting, and it was amazing!
The SILENT REVOLUTION
Those archives were in perfect order and peace until we came in. Our dress code required surgeon masks, latex gloves, water and occasional snacks. We spent a lifetime exploring bookshelves, messing up and fixing file folders, reading and taking notes. We shared dusty snacks, amazement gasps and the noise of turning the worn-out paper. Page after page, after page, of every daily journal since 1911. Upstairs, the graphics team kept selecting, scanning, photographing and post-producing their image collection. We did this for what seemed a century.
Then, for another century, we had to gather and select from the first notes, search and download uneditable pdf files (the precise period not yet processed into text documents) type the news, edit and send them to the Deputy Director. From there, he'd select the best, organise, pair up with photography and send off to the design team.
The paging was followed by proofreading, review, approval, alterations, final-art, (proofreading again), pre-print, approval and final print and all the way to the newsstands. At some point, we had work rhythm like producing live news on TV. On the final stage of the process, we had little time ahead of each published issue.
work and passion
We had a perfectly coordinated ‘assembling line’ of journalists, photographers, typesetters, designers, proofreaders, producers and ‘caffeine-cravers’. Hours of delay at the beginning of the process could mean a compromised edition. That was unthinkable. It was also unthinkable, in a lifetime, how much work was involved. It was hard. But it was hard because it was fascinating.
We handled over 73.000 newspapers (yes, seventy-three thousand) to select some of the most picturesque headlines for a little over 30 issues. We saw it announced for the first time on a bus shelter mupi, at about 11 pm. What a thrill that was! We even took a (bad) picture to celebrate the moment before getting back to work. We didn’t have time to contemplate our babies in outdoors or kiosks. Not until the end of the project. But we made it happen.
Today, we keep a copy to give it a proper stare. It reminds us of how good it feels to accomplish such a task, and that learning every day is a path to find joy in hard work.
And we can definitely tell you two things. That one should never wear white while working with newspapers, and that being passionate about what you do - whatever you do - is of the best things in life.
"Café-thief stole Dr Afonso Costa's car" was the headline chosen for the Advertising campaign that included print, outdoor and TV. See the work here.