A bit of Iguana history: looking back 30 years

You are reading the Iguana right now. For some it is a well established practice, for some it is a new or occasional experience.

Here’s some background on the Iguana:

The Gainesville Iguana was first published in October of 1986. During that period the political situation in Central America was very hot, with a proxy war against Nicaragua’s Sandinista government being waged by the Reagan administration. Local political organizing against US policy in Nicaragua was at a high level, as was the anti-apartheid movement and the campaign for UF to divest its holdings in South Africa. Local churches were providing sanctuary for refugees fleeing violence in the homelands of Guatemala and El Salvador, the ongoing battle for abortion rights and woman’s rights in general, the protest of the Trident missile system, health care issues, and the like.

Beginning as a three or four sheet newsletter, the Iguana was mostly available by mail to activists, with a circulation growing from an initial 250 to 600-700. By 1989, which saw massive feminist protest to defend abortion rights, we had switched to a booklet size. Then we went to newsprint in 1990, just in time to cover the rise of racist skinheads and UF’s short-lived White Student Union (we helped expose its connection to the local KKK) and to help nurture opposition to the Gulf War. Because newsprint is cheaper, we are now able to print 5,000 copies, with about 700 mailed to subscribers, the rest made available in racks or in stores around town. Please subscribe–you’ll receive it promptly and you’ll help us pay the bills for printing.

You may have noticed that we don’t pretend to be objective. We don’t even believe that the ‘objective” mainstream media is objective at all. They choose to cover certain stories (O.J., Princess Di) and not others (corporate welfare, the Detroit newspaper strike). They tend to focus on problems we have as a society as a few people’s individual character flaws or bad choices. For example, if you don’t have health insurance, you just made a bad choice (even though 40 million Americans don’t have health insurance.) They pretend they’re being “objective” and “reasonable” but they’re really hiding their agenda. Their assignment is to report things that support the policies of their corporate owners, their advertisers, and that support the politicians who support them. If they convince us our problems are our fault, we won’t look for a national solution that would cut into their corporate profits, like national health care or full employment.

We have an agenda, too, but ours is out on the table. We think the reader can decide if they agree or disagree. We are very much pro-worker, feminist, pro-Black Liberation, pro-peace, pro-environment, pro-human rights. The editors and writers are active in movements against exploitation, corporate greed, racism, sexism, prisons, and discrimination. We stand proudly on the left, and encourage people to know their history and the role the left has played in the struggle for worker rights, civil rights, woman’s rights and democracy.

We publish the Iguana because we strongly believe in getting stories out of organizations struggling on the cutting edge of making positive change. We want to see those changes.

The money to make this paper comes from donations, subscriptions and advertising. All labor is donated in production of the Iguana. The money goes to printing and the postage.

One thing that sets the Iguana apart from most papers is our strong belief in people involved with an issue directly presenting their own story in our pages. We figure they know their issue best. This philosophy is based on our own experience as organizers and activists. Many times we worked hard at crafting a press release to state our position for a demonstration, rally or event, only to have the reporter or editors totally botch the story–misinterpret, misconstrue, or mutilate our position to fit their story and take on a situation. We feel an organization involved in an issue or struggle can be trusted, and that the whole issue of ‘objectivity” is a smokescreen for dilution and packaging of a controversial issues to fit the editors’ goals and opinions. Likewise we also print transcripts of speakers or public debate, not just pick and choose a sound bite or two, so you get a better picture of what was said.

If you support what we’re doing, tell our advertisers you appreciate their support of us. If you know a place that ought to have the Iguana available, let us know. And communicate your events or ideas to us–tell us what your group is doing so we can spread the word: 352-378-5655.  Articles from back issues from 1996 through today are archived on our website at www.gainesvilleiguana.org.

The above was published in Sept 1997 and only slightly updated. 

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