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Polonia Today: The Life of an Editor-in-Chief

T. Ron Jasinski-Herbert sat at his home office at 3 a.m., translating the list that was faxed over to him of all the Polish government officials that died in the plane crash over Russia.

“I was the first in this country to see that list. I was supposed to introduce the president on May 1 at the Polish parade,” said Jasinski, editor-in-chief of Polonia Today.

Polonia Today, an online-only publication, dates back to 1911, when it was published in Pennsylvania. Though it has always been in English, the publication had not always been online. It was a weekly newspaper that in the 1960s made its way to Chicago, the city with the highest concentration of Poles outside of Poland.

By 1975, it became the most read Polish-American newspaper in the world and by 2007, it went online. It was trusted by its readers for being so faithful and bringing the most up-to-date news from Poland, giving the publication a new motto: “Fact Without Favor – Truth Without Fear.”

With the journalism world changing, Jasinski explains the things he is doing to keep up with the pace and the things he has had to sacrifice.

“I used to have an office and a TV studio a block away from my house, but I had to sell them because everything went to hell. Now I work from home, which is better and I don’t have a staff here anyways, ” Jasinski said, his wit already coming out.

Jasinski was brought up in Chicago with Polish parents, but, wanting to be all-American, they didn’t teach their kids any part of their native tongue. Even with that little conflict, it didn’t stop him from keeping the little staff that he did have overseas.

“I use stringers in Poland to get all of my news information. They are great writers and I can use them for my features, pay them little and they are OK with that because most of them just want their name out there,” Jasinski said.

Jasinski also mentions that he shares news articles with a major Polish agency in Poland. Though he cannot speak Polish fluently, he has taught himself enough to get by.

Growing up, Jasinski spent time with his cousins pretending to own a magazine and printing them out weekly for his family, so it came as no surprise that he would study English in DePaul University. But that’s not the degree he graduated with.

Instead, Jasinski graduated with a degree in divorce law, but he soon realized it wasn’t for him. He became a member of the Polish National Alliance and was asked to write their monthly newsletter. From there, he fell out of law and back into journalism.

He continues to write for the Alliance’s newsletter as well as various other projects. Jasinski mentions that he is a spokesman for Sobieski Vodka, has a Polka radio show and is a president in various Polish organizations.

“I’m really active in the community and do what I can. I’m a workaholic and can’t do anything until my work is done,” Jasinski said.

Stefan Koltas, a listener to Jasinski’s radio show, comments on how it differs from the online newspaper.

“Well, the radio show only focuses on polka groups in Chicago and Wisconsin, where the majority of polka groups are. I listen to the radio show usually on Sunday mornings with my family on my way to church. I don’t read Polonia Today as much because I am not an Internet person, so I was much more of a reader when it was in print,” Koltas said.

In 2007, the print edition of Polonia Today ended, mainly because subscription rates were down and the newspaper was in trouble.

“When I saw our numbers, I knew we had to do something, so we were the earliest of the ethnic newspapers to go online,” Jasinski said.

One of the online readers, Jake Kladis, weighs in on what he likes about the Web site.

“I like the online version better than the print. I only saw the print a couple of times and even though not everything is included online as it was in print, there are new links and it saves me time and money,” Kladis said.

Some new links Kladis refers to is a video or picture of the month that Jasinski himself takes. Another link is one for the Polonia Today store that opened when the print publication turned online, which has so far, succeeded.

The best advice Jasinski gave was how to become an editor-in-chief of a publication.

“Buy your own newspaper,” Jasinski said

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