The Gainesville Iguana: A brief history

by Joe Courter

The first Iguana appeared in October 1986. It was an outgrowth of the merging of three activist mailing lists at a time when there was a high level of local organizing stimulated by the world we were seeing unfold during the Reagan administration. 

I was producing a newsletter for the Humanist Society of Gainesville for years and had amassed a solid mailing list for them. The second mailing list had developed from the increased local (and national) organizing activities opposing Reagan’s Central America policies. The third came from a newsletter put out by the local Quaker organization. A merge and purge of duplicates resulted in a list of about six or seven hundred names. For the first five years the Iguana was a mailed-out newsletter only, multipage and photocopied to the people on this list.

That changed in 1991 when the idea of switching to newsprint came along. We discovered that for the same cost of photocopying we could print over 2,000 copies and also have a lot more space for articles. Thus, it was goodbye to Target Copy and off to Florida Crown Printing, up near Jacksonville. We now use Florida Sun Printing in Callahan.

Technology has changed big time over the past thirty years, and definitely worked in our favor. In the beginning someone might submit a typewritten story, or if we were reprinting something, a person would need to retype it and save it on a floppy disc. I would go pick it up, bring it home, and hope the writer’s computer and software was compatible with our computer. 

Co-editor Jenny Brown would edit and arrange it so the layout would fit the page, paste everything together. Then I would bring the pages to the printer where they would turn our paste-ups into newsprint, and in a day or so we’d have the papers ready. 

Now it is much easier, with electronic transmission of data, layout programs that eliminate using scissors and glue sticks. All that really has stayed the same is driving to pick it up, and the process of distributing and mailing it. And of course now we can send an electronic copy to those who want to get it that way.

We are not a paper that has official reporters. We believe those people in groups involved in organizing, activism, and awareness-building know best how to explain what they do.  So those peope are our writers. We don’t need to follow the theory of “objective journalism”; we feel that gets a diluted reporting of two side-ism. We respect ideals and principles and would rather have a more complete, truthful picture. 

Some call what we do “advocacy journalism,” and yes, that fits: we are for human rights, for equality, for justice, for peace, for nature, for science. We are a soap box that committed people organizing for social justice can get up on and be heard.

We believe local organizing is the heart of democracy. Growing the power of grassroots organizing and awareness building is key to what we do.

The Iguana is a combination of Alachua County news, opinions, and announcements from local advocates and citizens; and reprinted regional, national, international news  and opinions from outside sources. We support the arts and believe there is a place for enjoyment in everyone’s lives. 

We are a conduit for needed information, a way for likeminded folks to find one another, a way to help promote local organizing efforts and also local businesses, who are in turn supporting our efforts with their ads. 

The fine folks who subscribe and/or donate allow us to print thousands of copies and drop them off to many dozen distribution points for complimentary pick up, as well as mailing to those who request it, regardless of income.  

We appreciate everyone who has contributed in whatever way you have to our efforts since we began this little paper over thirty years ago.

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