Wednesday, October 20, 2021

My Job at the Newspaper 1992 - 2007

The other day my 4 year old great niece, Junie said she wanted to be an artist and a writer when she grew up. With great pride, I told her that I had been an artist and a writer for a newspaper for 15 years. Then I stopped and wondered if she even knew what a newspaper is.

Christina Fajardo
Working at the Newspaper
View from my corner office of the
Austin American-Statesman

My great niece Juniper Moon,
who will most definitely be an artist and a writer
when she grows up because she is
already a writer and an artist at the age of 4.

Five years ago, the year before Junie was born, the Austin American-Statesman presses at 305 S Congress Ave. ran for the last time. They moved their printing operations to San Antonio and Houston. It was a sad day for me and many others. I had worked at the Austin American-Statesman for 15 years and part of my job was to knowing and sharing the history of the newspaper. Watching the newspaper die a slow death has been heartbreaking.

My History At The Newspaper

My education was in graphic design and my career at the newspaper began on January 6, 1992. I had moved back to Austin from Los Angeles in 1989, where I had been working at the Bob Ahlman Advertising Agency. I wasn't ready to jump back into an office job so I started selling my artwork at the 23rd St Artist Market.

Spring, summer and fall at the open air markets were fun. I met lots of like minded people, however, when winter fell upon those of us standing out in the weather all day, it wasn't so much fun. I spent the bitterly cold winter of 1991 selling art in what is basically a wind tunnel on the dead end street at the corner of 23rd and Guadalupe, across the street from the University of Texas Tower. There were a few days during my kid's Christmas vacation when Christian was bundled up on a cot under my table with a long heavy table cloth on it that served as a tent. I was a volunteer on the board of the artist market and part of my job was to place the ads for the market in the Austin-American Statesman and the Chronicle. The week before Christmas, I went to the Statesman to meet with our advertising sales representative in his office on the 3rd floor, overlooking what was then Town Lake (Now Lady Bird Lake) My first thought was "I could get used to this heated office job. I'm a graphic designer, I could do this!" So the week after Christmas, I applied for a job at the Statesman, thinking I could work there for a year, until I decided what my next step would be. On January 6, I had the job in the Educational Services/Marketing Dept.

I wore many hats in the marketing department, which was great because anyone that knows me can tell you I get bored easily. So ultimately, my one year office job turned into a 15 year career.

When I started working in the Educational Department, I gave tours of the newspaper facility to classrooms of kids. Sometimes I gave tours to people from other businesses and other countries. I designed teaching curriculum for teachers to use in classroom. Occasionally on Saturdays we taught teachers how to use newspapers in their classrooms with our curriculum. Looking back, our curriculum was very cutting edge.

The Educational Service Department
Ginny, Christina, Frida and Mary Ann

It would be hard to cover everything I did at the Statesman in one blog post but I will start by saying this - I am forever grateful for learning that it doesn't matter how good you are at what you do, whether you're an artist, a musician or if you own a restaurant or a clothing store, if you don't know how to market yourself well, you will not be successful. Why? Because nobody will ever know who you are and what you do. I can't stress how essential effective advertising and marketing is. You would be amazed at how effective our Educational Services Department was at selling newspapers which is why it was located in the Marketing Department.

This 40 page curriculum taught students history,
culture and contributions of diverse culture groups. 

Newspapers in Education awarded
thousands of dollars annually to high school
juniors and seniors winners
of the scholarship writing contests.
I had my son, Christian design this cover
of the flyer when he was a teenager.

Every Wednesday 30 free newspapers were delivered to each teacher who had been sponsored by a local business to use the newspaper in their class to teach. It was a win-win situation because businesses paid for sponsorships in turn the business received advertising. The teachers also received teaching curriculum and tours of the newspaper. After a couple of years, Ginny Garrison left and David Pego became director of the Educational Services Dept. With that change came a little more freedom to do what I was best at.
I created a full page called "Scholar and Scribe" that was published every Wednesday with educational information for teachers, students.

Mary Ann, David and Christina
The Educational Serviced Department

It's Hard To Believe I Had a Full Page
Called "Scholar and Scribe" 
Published Every Wednesday.
Once Monthly "Christina's Craft Corner"
Was Featured.

New Fellow Fellowship

In 1998 I won a New Fellow Fellowship from the Newspaper Association of America. I would have to say that this was one of the few times in my life when being a minority woman was beneficial because it was a huge factor in winning the fellowship. There were 14 of us from news sources around the country who traveled around the country for a year brainstorming. Trying to collectively decided how to integrate the internet into the newspaper business. We spent our days brainstorming and our nights out on the town of many major cities around the country. It was one of the best years of my life. Here are a few photos from that year.

One of the most-loved and celebrated bookstores in America,
City Lights, in San Francisco. It closed at the beginning
of the pandemic but has reopened its doors
after teetering on the brink of permanent closure.

Christina Fajardo
New Media Fellow 1998
San Francisco

New Media Fellows having dinner 
In China Town, San Francisco

Ivan Martinez and Christina Fajardo
New Media Fellows 1998

New Media Fellows 1998

New Media Fellows 1998

New Media Fellows 1998
Out on the town in St Petersburg, Florida
After a long day at the Poynter Institute

At the end of the fellowship year I was to come up with an online project that would make the NEW Austin American- Statesman online project interesting to the public. I came up with a blog idea (before anyone even had blogs) I asked my friend Lana, Willie Nelson's daughter write an online diary with photos of being on the road with Willie, her dad, specifically in Europe. It was so successful that Random House offered them a million dollar book deal. When they finished their tour, I had Jimmy LaFave's drummer, Herb Belofsky write a blog on their tour. Not fully understanding the concept of a blog, Jimmy wasn't entirely happy with the idea. But later he did like performing at the noon time concerts at the newspaper. Once a month on Friday, I would hire musician friends to play a concert on the patio in front of the Statesman for the employees. We had it catered by local restaurants and the bands were paid well. When I look back now, it makes me smile to think of all the "marketing strategies" I came up with. 

I could go on and on with the service that the newspaper provided to the community. I'm extremely grateful for my fellowship and the knowledge I gain from the experience. Just being able to go to the Poynter Institute in Florida was priceless.The Poynter Institute for Media Studies is a non-profit journalism school and research organization in St. Petersburg, Florida. It is a global leader in journalism. The school is owned by the Tampa Bay Times newspaper and the International Fact-Checking Network and operates PolitiFact. 

I am heartbroken daily at what has happened to honest, informed journalism of daily newspapers. Those of us in the newspaper business took so much pride in our jobs in the 15 years that I was a part of that industry. I think back on the days when we all had our Associated Press Style Book on our desk when I see the way people spell and punctuate now. 

I worked at the newspaper until 2007 and I have taken you through the first 7 years. There may be a follow up blog soon about the next years spent working as a graphic designer in Marketing.

The Austin American-Statesman Marketing Dept.

I will end with this... Please, when you read something on the internet, don't assume the information is correct. Check and recheck the sources. I love the internet. I was on the cutting edge of using it to provide information at a major newspaper and that is why it is so important to me to say it is your responsibility to check your sources. Please don't believe everything you see on the internet. 

Here is a link to a great place to check your fact: is an American nonprofit project operated by the Poynter InstituteIts journalists evaluate original statements and publish their findings on the website, where each statement receives a "Truth-O-Meter" rating. The ratings range from "True" for statements the journalists deem as accurate to "Pants on Fire" (from the taunt "Liar, liar, pants on fire") for claims the journalists deem as false or ludicrous. PolitiFact has won the Pulitzer Prize, and has been both praised and criticized by independent observers, conservatives and liberals alike.