Kristie Robinson ditched a job in PR to jet off to Argentina and set up an English-language newspaper. Two years later, the long hours are starting to pay offâ€¦
Two disgruntled journalists in a bar in London two years ago, lamenting winter kicking in, moaning about their wages and working hours, and recalling the good old days of life abroad on the English-language newspaper in Bolivia.
A drunken pact to stop ‘talking’and start ‘doing’led to the booking of flights to Argentina, and, six months later, the first edition of The Argentimes hitting Buenos Aires.
Within a few days of Lucy Cousins’ and my decision to throw it all in, we had recruited three people to our ‘get out of London’team. The decision, once made, wasn’t really that hard to follow through on, given both of our contracts were coming to an end, mine working in the press office for Make Poverty History, after a stint on a national had not been as joyous as expected. Lucy was also going to be leaving the UK anyway, returning to her native Australia, and was grasping at ideas of what to do to delay the return home.
And then within a few days we were five. It was as though fate was indicating we should absolutely do this if the idea was there. I was approached at work by a girl who had heard I had worked in Bolivia – a photographer who was thinking of taking a sabbatical and wondered if I had any tips or contacts.
Another friend was a web developer, who said that if we were to actually do this, she would happily create us a website. Then a friend of a friend, a graphic designer, heard of our idea and was looking for an excuse to quit her job in Dublin and go on an adventure.
As soon as the idea was in place, Argentina was suddenly everywhere. I went to a house party in Hammersmith, knowing one person, and got talking to a guy called Simon. His dad, it transpired, was the former British ambassador to Argentina, the first one back in after the Falklands debacle that had frozen diplomatic ties.
And then we were in at the embassy in London, telling all and sundry about our plans, working our contacts, and living hilarious double lives. We didn’t tell the minister for trade and economics about our second jobs as waitresses to save enough money to fund the paper.
In August 2006, after many a hiccup and clashes over artistic vision, the first edition of The Argentimes hit the streets. It was mostly rubbish and written by about three people under pseudonyms. And since then there have been more hiccups. Half of the people who started the paper are no longer with it – including Lucy, who left within a year. My bank statements have regularly given my parents heart attacks.
But The Argentimes has grown. We now have interns – journalism and Spanish students – which helps keep staffing costs down. The paper has 40 pages now, and the idea of it being a weekly within a year seems feasible, so long as the advertising team keep doing their job.
Looking back on the past two years, I have not slept – my social life revolves around the paper. Everyone I meet gets sucked in to The Argentimes vision, and ends up working with us on some level. But I have had feedback from readers who praise the independence of the paper, and congratulate me on the articles we do, which are finally starting to be of a decent standard.
It took a year for the paper to be ready for me to send home to my journalism tutor – I wanted something that was of a professional standard, not just a rag backpackers would read. And we’re there – well, not 100 per cent, but closer by the day. I’m skint and I work too much. But it has been worth every second.