In our opinion, the antiwar movement still faces the challenge - and opportunity - of reaching truly large numbers of people with information, analysis and historical background. Print media can be one of the most valuable tools in our outreach efforts because it allows us to bring our message to others rather than wait for people to come to us.

War Times: History, Evaluation, Lessons, Future

by The War Times/Tiempo de Guerras Organizing Committee, December 2004

War Times/Tiempo de Guerras, a nationwide, free, bilingual (Spanish and English), antiwar newspaper, produced 19 issues (distributing roughly 100,000 copies of each) between February 2002 and the suspension of publication in October 2004.

Below the War Times/Tiempo de Guerras Organizing Committee reviews the paper’s origins, purpose, and activities, and then presents some lessons we have learned from this experience and our future plans.

Origins and Purpose

War Times/Tiempo de Guerras was initiated in fall 2001 following a series of ad hoc workshops, “Radicals of All Generations” meetings, and forums involving several hundred San Francisco Bay Area activists. These discussions did not focus on the need for a newspaper. Rather, they centered on the sweeping character of the “permanent war on terrorism” and the urgency of building broad opposition, especially among constituencies who would be most impacted by the post-9/11 escalation of militarism, racism, repression and anti-immigrant assaults.

As these gatherings proceeded, an inter-generational, majority people of color group of a dozen activists decided to try to launch an antiwar newspaper. We envisioned the publication as taking advantage of a new “educational moment” to reach people – especially but not exclusively in working class, people of color and immigrant communities – who were open to an antiwar message but not (necessarily yet) in the antiwar camp. We believed that reaching this crucial audience required a vehicle that could be brought to them (via free distribution of printed matter) rather than requiring them to come to us. We hoped to provide an educational/organizing tool for antiwar activists, and through them, an entryway for new people into the antiwar movement, thus complementing the many other antiwar projects then taking shape. We also hoped to contribute to unity and better morale among existing antiwar organizations by providing an attractive, accessible and visible outreach tool utilized by a broad and inclusive network.

In January 2002 we drafted a prospectus outlining our objectives, signed on a broad array of well-known endorsers, and began work on a pilot issue.

Our initial plan was to print 10,000 copies of War Times/Tiempo de Guerras’ pilot issue and distribute them in the Bay Area, with the hope that eventually distribution could go national. However, shortly before we went to press we sent the prospectus out over the internet and within a week orders came in from all over the country for a total of 70,000 copies. By February when our pilot came off the press there was a network of several hundred individuals and organizations eager to distribute the paper. This network included many community-based organizations whose main focus was not on antiwar activism but who wanted to utilize War Times/Tiempo de Guerras to educate their membership and base about the real agenda of the “war on terrorism” and the links between international, national and domestic issues. We began regular publication in April 2002.

Key Features of War Times/Tiempo de Guerras

The content and appearance of War Times/Tiempo de Guerras were designed to reach our prime audience with accurate, timely and accessible information and analysis. The paper utilized short articles (800 words maximum, and most pieces were much shorter), photographs, drawings, and cartoons to get our message across. We strongly emphasized putting a human face on those most impacted by militarism, racism and repression, and on featuring voices and images from targeted, dispossessed communities at home and abroad. We did our best to make sure all the paper’s reporting was fact-based and clearly sourced, with reference to recognized national and international news sources.

War Times/Tiempo de Guerras made a point of consistently linking domestic and international issues, and from the outset stressed the urgency of building support for Palestinian national rights as an integral part of fighting the “war on terrorism.” The paper gave special stress to combating the racism intertwined with all aspects of Bush’s “war on terrorism” agenda. War Times/Tiempo de Guerras’ bilingual character was a crucial aspect of the paper. This made the paper available to Spanish readers and also made it crystal clear that this newspaper was extremely racially conscious about its readership and its vision of the make-up of an antiwar movement.

Indicating War Times/Tiempo de Guerras’ quality, two of our stories were named by the award-winning media research group Project Censored to their list of the 25 Top Censored Stories of 2003.

As we spread word about this new effort – mainly via e-mail – more and more individuals and organizations stepped forward to become distributors. From our first issue the paper reached readers in all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico via the efforts of more than 700 individuals and groups. Roughly 40 percent of our average press run of 100,000 copies was utilized by distributors rooted in immigrant and people of color communities. Another 30 percent were distributed on sociologically diverse college campuses and high schools, many by bilingual education teachers who used the paper both inside and outside their classrooms.

The final 30 percent were handed out by labor activists and mainly white peace and faith-based groups. Distributors in smaller cities and towns and rural areas from Texas and Nebraska to New Hampshire and upstate Minnesota found War Times/Tiempo de Guerras especially useful, since otherwise many of these areas lacked any other antiwar media presence.

Printing and shipping so many copies of a newspaper was expensive – about $15,000 per issue. For funds we relied mainly on grassroots individual donors, who provided close to 60% of this project’s income. Another 20% came from unions and other social justice organizations, the final 20% from foundations. We had the rare pleasure of gaining immediate and meaningful feedback on the usefulness of the paper as its continued existence was literally dependent upon thousands of dollars in small donations showing up in our mailbox each week, and on hundreds of volunteers (few of whom we ever met) requesting bundles issue after issue.

War Times/Tiempo de Guerras was overwhelmingly a volunteer-based project. Some 30-35 people contributed regularly to our Editorial (including translation and art/design), Production, Fundraising, Administration, and Distribution-Coordination committees. A number of these individuals were not located in the Bay Area. Only our Managing Editor received a full-time salary. We also gave our National Distribution Coordinator a part-time stipend in the last year.

Policy for the project was set by a 12-member Organizing Committee consisting of the people who did the most consistent work on the paper and were prepared to take overall responsibility for the effort. Though among us there were a wide array of views on many political questions, and we came from different political backgrounds, we shared an unusual degree of unity around the goals and approach of this particular project. This allowed decision-making to be decentralized and enabled us to carry out our work with an absolute minimum of meetings.

Activities: February 2002-October 2004

The centerpiece of War Times/Tiempo de Guerras’ work was publishing and distributing the paper itself. Circulation peaked at 125,000 for three issues appearing just before and after Washington ‘s March 2003 invasion of Iraq . Demand for the paper was also above our overall average right after its launch, when antiwar voices were all but totally excluded from the mainstream media and War Times/Tiempo de Guerras played a unique role in offering (and modeling) an accessible antiwar message.

Supplementing this project’s core activity, we also:

Launched and maintained a War Times/Tiempo de Guerras website (, which contained downloadable copies of each regular issue as well as other outreach materials (in particular bilingual flyers in downloadable PDF-file format) and links to other useful sites;
Provided articles from War Times/Tiempo de Guerras to other publications for reprinting, a service used extensively especially by the Spanish language community press.
Established an e-mail Announcement List which grew to include 8,000 people who opted to join;
Played a role in helping organize and sustain the nationwide United for Peace and Justice coalition, with one of our Organizing Committee members elected as a National Co-Chair and another serving as Organizing Director on the UFPJ national staff;
Played an initial but then receding role in the Racial Justice 911 National Network, with two of our members on the steering committee and one as national coordinator.
Built a network of financial supporters, allowing us to raise over $400,000 since February 2002, about 60% of which came in small amounts from individual donors.

In spring 2004, War Times/Tiempo de Guerras began to experience severe financial strain even though our distribution remained intact. Our donor base was putting its resources into other projects. In part this was because Washington ‘s policy in Iraq and elsewhere was now being challenged by a much wider array of voices, and in part this reflected the unprecedented resources progressive people were pouring into election-related initiatives. By October we lacked the funds to put out another issue. We announced that we were suspending publication for the time being and would take another look at options for moving forward after the November election.

Lessons from this Project, Looking to the Future

Looking back on these three intense years of antiwar activism, our Organizing Committee believes War Times/Tiempo de Guerras’ experience is rich in lessons for the urgent work that still lies ahead:

The framework of a post-9/11 educational moment – during which millions were thinking anew about the U.S. role in the world – was a valuable insight and crucial to War Times/Tiempo de Guerras so quickly finding a large audience. And in our opinion, the antiwar movement still faces the challenge – and opportunity – of reaching truly large numbers of people with information, analysis and historical background. Print media can be one of the most valuable tools in our outreach efforts because it allows us to bring our message to others rather than wait for people to come to us. Thinking and acting large-scale is vital: War Times/Tiempo de Guerras’ reach of 100,000-plus was a good start but we must get to the point where our antiwar, anti-racist message gets put consistently in front of a much larger audience.
We believe it was important to aim War Times/Tiempo de Guerras especially at the constituencies most impacted by the “war on terrorism.” These sectors – communities of color, immigrant communities, the Arab and Muslim populations, workers and poor people – were and are most opposed to the Bush agenda and crucial for building a powerful and stable antiwar movement. Of course other sectors often could and did run ahead of these constituencies in terms of visible activism (especially attendance at demonstrations) and the potential of each of these must also be tapped to the full: students and youth, women, the peace and civil liberties communities, progressive religious sector, environmental activists. Also, War Times/Tiempo de Guerras made a point of featuring the voices of veterans, military families and active duty military personnel who are opposed to the war; these have a unique role to play and amplifying their voices is a priority for the entire antiwar movement.
Feedback from readers consistently emphasized that stressing the linkages between different aspects of the “war on terrorism” was a key strength of War Times/Tiempo de Guerras. Our editorial policy considered the intimate connection between racism and war to be the most vital link to hone in on. It was also important to keep the connections between the international and domestic components of the Bush administration’s war program in view, and to incorporate support for Palestinian national and human rights into ongoing antiwar education and mobilization.
We learned that effectively getting our message across required speaking to people on many levels, in different ways and in different languages, in a non-preachy, non-didactic manner. Besides providing historical background, basic information and analysis of week-to-week events, it is vital to put a human face on the victims of US policies – in particular to combat demonization of “the other” – and also to promote voices from targeted, dispossessed and oppressed communities at home and abroad. War Times/Tiempo de Guerras’ bilingual character was of central importance to this project and ongoing production of materials in Spanish and other languages seems to us an ongoing priority for the antiwar movement.
Both our efforts to get War Times/Tiempo de Guerras distributed as widely as possible and our involvement in mobilizations/campaigns have reinforced our view that a broad coalition approach and special efforts to provide a welcoming space for new people must be cornerstones of the antiwar effort. Our eyes must be on building a movement with the support of millions of people holding diverse views.
War Times/Tiempo de Guerras’ rapid expansion to reach tens of thousands of readers, and also the financial difficulties which forced suspension of publication this October, have underscored the point that the antiwar movement needs strong, well-resourced, and broad-based institutions/coalitions/organizations. These are essential to educate, mobilize and conduct ongoing action campaigns on a truly large scale. At the present time, we see building on the accomplishments of United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) and strengthening UFPJ’s capacity in all areas as especially important.

Looking ahead, we plan to continue producing bilingual outreach materials with the same political character, target audience, and editorial mix as War Times/Tiempo de Guerras. We do not have – and cannot foresee attaining in the immediate future – the funds to continue as an in-print free tabloid. But with current technology we can post leaflets and flyers on the web, and these can be downloaded and reproduced for hand-to-hand distribution by organizers (as well as forward via e-mail). We hope to cooperate with UFPJ and/or other organizations/coalitions in crafting the most useful content and maximizing distribution.

We are eager to hear your ideas about this evaluation and plan. Please send us your thoughts via the contact addresses below. It has been a privilege to work with so many dedicated antiwar activists across the country who – under tremendously difficult circumstances – have turned peace sentiment into a powerful force in U.S. politics. We look forward to further work together with you as the urgent struggle for peace and justice continues.