By: Veronica Leighton
(published in MEMORIES III UP Alumni and Friends United) Carmencita Quesada Fulgado, Ph.D., Editor/Publisher, UPAA-New York
Looking back at how I started my publishing career, thirtysome years ago, (August 1984), I just can’t help but be amazed at how I survived the tough world of journalism in North America.
Armed (or disarmed?) with no journalism subjects credited to my college undergraduate degree (University of the Philippines BS Foreign 1961), with no particular ambitions to be in the writing field of any sorts, but to work as an executive secretary for my bread and butter, later on to become a doting young Mom and hang around and party with friends were my real- life goals and dreams at that time.
Serendipitious or accidental is the only word that I can describe my successful climb to my journalism career in America. Things happened that started out in a meeting with a couple of male pals who thought that it would be a great idea to have a Filipino magazine in Chicago (where a lot of Filipino tabloids abound). Went along with the idea thinking that I could contribute as a social columnist (was writing a syndicated society column for popular weekly Philippine News, the oldest Filipino American publication in North America published in San Francisco at that time) or help solicit advertisers as I knew many people in Chicago’s Fil-Am community. When the historical triumvirate meeting of great minds concluded, surprise of all surprises, I was voted to be the publisher of the newly-conceived monthly Fil-Am magazine, named Via Times Newsmagazine.
I refused hard with so much trepidation as my friends and I knew that I did not have any knowledge in publishing (no, nein, nada), but they insisted that they were going to help me as they were both knowledgeable and experienced in publishing (one was a publisher of an Asian American monthly publication and the other one was the Midwest Bureau Chief of the Philippine News).
ALRIGHT, I said, yielding to their convincing power skills, but I had my first demand…if I were to be the publisher of this publication, I want the name to start with a letter V (like in “Veronica”). Then, we all went through the thick Merriam-Webster Dictionary in front of us, and stopped on the word VIA, meaning “by way of, through the medium or agency of,” etc. Even consulted a very good psychic friend & numerologist, internationally renowned Cecile Sevilla, who suggested to add another word like “Herald” or “Times.” Thus, the birth of VIA TIMES NEWSMAGAZINE .
My second demand was, a car. I didn’t have a car of my own (I was just borrowing my husband’s car) to manage around the community for news gathering and for advertisers’ solicitations, and ultimately, in delivering the papers. Advertisers are so important, as they are the life support for our existence and maintenance as the concept of paper distribution is FREE (not through subscription) to advertisers’ places, grocery stores and restaurants for readers to pick up.
I was lent $300 by one of my male partners to go to a local Nissan dealership whose Filipino salesman was also a dear friend to buy my first car. This friend salesman also became our first solicited loyal advertiser for many years. Alas, the car deposit of $300 bounced but was later made good by the issuer himself. So things went all right as far as my first car was concerned, and he got paid back $500 after a year of VT existence.
How I loved my first Maxima Nissan, a very popular “Talking Car” of the 1970’s. I drove around town with Maxima, soliciting advertisers so we would have money for our first printing job. When I had solicited enough money to pay for printing, our first VIA TIMES NEWSMAGAZINE issue was born. Advertisers’ support through advertising have helped our existence through the years until now. So many of them have stayed loyal to VIA Times in spite of the burgeoning competitors, online and offline.
Along the way, I lost my partner/friend who promised to help me out in layouting and publishing after three months due to personal reasons, and the other one (the car-money lender) due to a conflict of interest, as he was an Aglipayan priest whose apostolic work & family duties & responsibilities come first, before publishing.
Through the process of hiring, rehiring and firing layout artists, learning the crude way of cutting and pasting the texts and pictures, VIA Times grew through the process without missing an issue. Girl friends came to my kitchen helping out in proofreading, editing, cutting and pasting during deadlines, layouting VT pages on our kitchen table and living room floors, accompanying me in delivering the VT pages to the printer’s place in the wee hours of the evening or morning, (about 30 miles away one way) and in delivering around town to the advertisers’ places, stores and restaurants.
The amazing birth of computerized desktop publishing was a saving grace for my sanity as a serendipitious publisher, which later diversified into more advanced computer software and digitalization processes. Do I love this modern era of traditional publishing complemented by the social media era. These days, we are always trying to keep up with the fast changes of publishing media technology.
VIA Times Newsmagazine tries to keep up with the modern times of media evolution and growth. From print publication, VT’s broadcast sister, Chicago Philippine Reports TV (CPRTV) was born in the 1990’s, popularly known as the Chicago Philippine Reports TV (CPRTV), serving the ethnic and mainstream viewership of 500,000+ in the Chicagoland. Without any hesitation, we rode into the exciting cycle of the Internet’s website publishing, through our state-of-the-art website, www.viatimes.net, coupled with our social media participation on Facebook and Instagram, giving us a grasp of worldwide visibility and promotions.
The only thriving and successful ethnic media platforms (print, broadcast, Internet & social media) in North America, VT/ CPRTV head is a Filipino American lady immigrant whose claims to glory and success are: persistence, hard work, tenacity, guts and willingness to learn and adapt to the everyday changes of the publishing world. So many people, out of curiosity, have come up with the creative meaning of “VIA,” with the following personal interpretations of their own, “VERONICA IN AMERICA,” “VERONICA’S INTRIGUES & ARGUMENTS,” “VERONICA IN ACTION.” Whatever it is, Veronica Leighton is a natural media personality, who has realized her calling in journalism later in her life.
Via Times has been borne out of SERENDIPITY (or could it be Veronica’s “destiny”?), that has impacted many lives in the Filipino American community of Chicago for almost four decades now.
This collection of life stories turned into an art-designed coffee table book is a fundraiser for scholarship in the University of the Philippines.
The 300-page book contains nostalgic memoirs, grateful stories, shared experiences, legendary revelations such as the story of a Filipino’s road to US University Presidency and a UP President’s rise into politics to be Philippine Senate President and his Words of Wisdom for UP moving forward; there is one who formulated pharmaceutical products and retired at 49; the first Asian woman to pass the NY bar and became Chair/CEO of a billion dollar multi-national food company; the inspiring “How We Met” vignettes; an interesting travelogue through Jerusalem; the decorated physician who served in the U.S. military; the magnanimous giving of 2nd generation Filipino-American who has not even seen the Philippines; road less travelled route to becoming a diplomat; the unlikely passage of a UP graduate into priesthood; the pianist of international fame, who gave up NYC because home is still the Philippines; the survival of a journalist as mere “serendipity”; the reminiscence of one whose bucket list includes a visit to New Zealand; the legendary story of the original Philippine Popular bookstore; be impressed by how family ties bind: read their legacies, children/grandchildren nostalgic memories that influenced their lives, UPAA chapter stories of Giving Back: foundations of a sorority and fraternity; the inspiring memoirs of scholars of this Scholarship Fund, as well as UPdates on UPM, UPCebu, UPLB, UPB, UPD, UPMin. UPOU, and UPV.