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How it came about

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How did Echo Germanica come about?

Echo Germanica, you could say, is the direct result of Sybille’s willingness to get involved in daily live. Others would tell you her superb writing skills brought it about. Still one might argue that having a close look at live comes before writing about it.

Prior to the appearance of Echo Germanica, Sybille Forster-Rentmeister was a columnist. First for a local then a national German-Canadian weekly newspaper over an eight-year period. There was a verbal agreement that none of her articles would be censored or cut. It was either run the article as is or not.

However, with the event of a new editor her last articles got censored and mangled to such a degree that readers approached her with "This can not be you who wrote the article? You never bring us just bad news and criticism. We want to read your original article". The outcry was such that she had to distribute 3,000 copies of her latest article in the local German-Canadian community to calm down the upset.

Here she also announced that this was the end of her column in any of the German-Canadian newspapers. Triggered by this announcement she virtually could not let herself be seen in the German-Canadian community without being approached by her readers. They demanded that she continue to write. More and more readers suggested that she start her own newspaper. It was December 1989.

First, Sybille laughed off this idea about creating another German newspaper in the Canadian landscape. Yet, the demand did not let up. Finally, she started a verbal survey in her closer surroundings: What do you want to see and read in this newspaper, what should it be named, etc., etc.?
With all this information she created a survey. Of the 1,500 surveys she distributed over 300 were returned, not counting the over 500 phone calls, with surprising results:

Not only the name "Echo Germanica" was chosen by the vast majority; by the way, the name Echo Germanica was spawned by Arni Gotthardt, a well-known German-Canadian actor.
To her surprise about 80% of the surveyed asked for mostly English content since they felt that it would be great that their spouses, children, friends and colleagues could read about the events in the German-Canadian community as well.

However, this survey alone would not have brought about the newspaper Echo Germanica. Her husband, Rolf Rentmeister, was by then very well versed with computers, i.e. the PC version. He had already written several programs to assist in his profession. For his purposes the old XT was good enough. A brand-new 386 PC, never mind a Mac, was not in the budget: "For just a hobby," he said.

Then in the beginning of March 1990, John Martin plunked a brand spanking new 386 onto the office desk of Forster Enterprises that there would be no excuse for Echo Germanica to appear. All he demanded was that his ads would be run in the very first issues of Echo Germanica.

Still there was no desktop publishing software, which was also not in the budget according to Rolf. Here Dr. Richard K. Altermann, from hereon known as Dick, stepped in with the latest version of PageMaker. These two "gifts" by John and Dick made it impossible for Sybille’s husband not to get involved in her "hobby" project. Little did he know how much of his "spare" time this project would consume.

In the middle of April 1990 under a full moon, the first issue of Echo Germanica was born. A mixture of computer desktop publishing, paste jobs (ads and pictures) and the header with its two fallen "C" created by Sybille with an old Letraset. All arranged together on the waxed surface of the flats (A flat is a white sheet of cardboard, formatted and outlined for size in blue with a prepared surface). Between 2 and 3 o’clock in the morning the first issue arrived at the printer and Echo Germanica was declared the cleanest paper they had ever received, and that on the first try.

Of course, when Dick, the old pro, started several years later with Echo Germanica he immediately pointed out, it was all done wrong right from the start: "Nobody in the industry waxes the flats. You’re supposed to wax the back of the paper instead and then stick it onto the dry flats."

Well, he had to learn to live with it. To the day we went totally electronic, Dick had to stick the unwaxed printouts onto the original flats that Sybille had waxed in the very first year of Echo Germanica’s existence. This doing it wrong had saved us a lot of wax and muscle power over the years.

The first issue of Echo Germanica was 10,000 copies strong and was distributed free of charge mostly in German delicatessen stores in and around Toronto and a few stores in Hamilton. The distribution grew to include the Kitchener/Waterloo area, for instance, also supermarket chains were added to the distribution list.

After its first year of publication, it received 3 top awards: 2 for excellence in journalistic development (1 from the Federal Government and 1 from the Canadian Ethnic Journalists), 1 for excellence in journalism (for Sybille’s article "What is German?") - A feat unheard of prior to Echo Germanica.

April 2000, Echo Germanica celebrated its 10th anniversary collecting more awards on its way.

The 10th anniversary issue of April 2000 was also the first issue placed onto the website.

And here we are: has grown from 1,500 hits per day after its first week on the Internet to between 1,500 – 2,100 visitors each day, which amounts to up to 200,000 hits per day. Thanks to you, our reader.