26Digital celebrated its 20th anniversary on Sunday, March 15.
Twenty years! When Ramiro Segura García, our director, asked me to imprison them in a few pages, I felt that the story of 26Digital "in black and white" could be summarized.But how to achieve it with all the symbolism, the emotions, the frights and the hours of the indescribable individual and collective feelings that since that March 15, 2000, are still alive, as if time was a nonconformist butterfly flying over the best of gardens, convinced that it will always be able to find a better one?
This is perhaps the visible and invisible reason that makes, two decades later, one of the digital newspapers of the province of Las Tunas a tangible dream for its production team and each of the 34 workers that make up the collective of 26. It is the systematic challenge to jump the internal and external barriers that can put navigation at risk, and take the local news to the corners of the island and the world.
It is a constant demand in that pleasant bag of unveiled memories. Like when Reynaldo López Peña, laptop in hand, would hurry restlessly and responsibly, bearing my anxiety and stress, the FrontPage (our first publishing software) or we would arrive at the offices of the Center for Information and Technological Management (Ciget) to look for Remisel, the young engineer who was the "savior angel" and tutor of excellence (like the rest of the staff, the only one then with Internet here) in those foundational moments.
Rey and I were just a duo of crazy apprentices who were moved by the commitment and encouraged by Ramiro's perseverance, always intense, demanding and running with us everywhere looking for "the light", when the blackouts at that time made us pull our hair out and start many times again to assemble those static pages full of HTML codes, which seemed endless. It was a reminder of the intense early mornings in weeks when we barely went home to bath and eat.
That March 15, 2000, was a day of dry throats and wet eyes. It seemed impossible that without state-of-the-art technology, with elementary knowledge learned through challenges, passions, madness and goals, we would be there, in the lobby of the Ciget with our first version of 26Digital in the heart of the laptop, proof of the first screenshot.
We achieved what seemed impossible! Now I don't know if we laugh or cry. It was an unforgettable process, full of joy, the deep sigh, the fact that the printed newspaper had a son in cyberspace, a way for the inhabitants of this Balcony of Eastern Cuba - the absent ones, above all - of touching their land and their people with a click; another voice of Cuba around the world.
But that was not the end of the late nights or the love for digital journalism, it was rather the beginning. Including added values, such as the site dedicated to the Five Cuban Heroes and the battle for the return of Elián González, were bigger words. Hosting 26 at the Information Technology and Advanced Telematic Services Company (Citmatel) in Havana and adding the rest of “the troop” to the constant learning process of filling the "unlimited" pages were other titanic efforts, in times without computers, limited hours of Internet service and the lifelong attachment to typewriters of the "old and new" journalists.
A time of lovers on the edge. Of "no other way" than adding to the rush to digitize and modernize the design and its editing system, translate to English, strengthen the graphic language, seek a dynamic contact with cyber-readers, try to approach the rush of technological changes that were shaking the network of networks at incredible speed and keep us with two or more daily updates ... It was for us a daily birth, enter with the sun very light and kiss the moon and nights.
We were no longer Rey, Segura, the drivers, and I. Leonardo Mastrapa and Maryla García joined the primary team. Also, Marilú Hernández, a proofreader, and the translators began. The office was too small for us.
We gradually moved to more comfortable cybernetic places. The events and some international awards arrived, we placed ourselves in the first positions of the search engines of the Internet in Spanish in the world; and the reporters, photographers and the rest of the collective were part and sign of a product delivered by a blow of love and "hammer". Confirming that Internet users were growing daily and the number of visits from the most remote countries was ecstasy. We gained strength.
CLOSER TO NOW
Joomla, a content management system, revolutionized our soul, and thanks to the work of the computer engineer Reynier Pozo we assumed a dynamic web and better quality and interaction with the readers. Then we moved to the International Press Center (CIP), where we are today.
The road takes us back to the everlasting passions with new journalistic faces that arrive at the newsroom, where hardly any differences are noticed between the first "soldiers" and the recently released “pens” of the guild. The web absorbs and captivates like day one.
As active as the site and their interesting and diverse communicative offers, achieved through infographics, photo galleries, videos, podcasts, which pay tribute to multimedia and transmedia, our community manager Yunixánder Díaz Viamonte and reporters István Ojeda and Dúbler R. Vázquez go beyond expectations and consolidate the positioning of 26Digital.
The harvest of recognition from the Central and Provincial Committees of the Cuban Communist Party continues, while in the individual order several reporters have won awards in the country for their work in hypermedia journalism.
A new model of content management - which involves the printed edition of the Weekly - makes us think, as an institution, of higher goals, and no one escapes either.
The women continue to mark the protagonist's face with the titanic presence of Iris Hernández, head of the Group; Zucel de la Peña, creative editor, and Maryla García, editor of the English page; without taking the steps away from their main editor, Leonardo Mastrapa, or the translator, Lixan Escalona, the habit of rushing down and up the stairs. Web issues, living swirl.
Passionate and risky story from day one. The healthy pride of a group of daring people who bet on adding do's and don'ts to the cyberspace highway and today, 20 years later, they smile when they see their proposals on YouTube and chant, as if they planned it: "It is cool, isn't it? In this daily magic, 26Digital is astonishment and the best birth we can have.