Recently Antonio Franco wrote to me from Genevrières, a small town in France where he used to go every summer and where his wife Milene had her roots. He told me that he was in a hammock, listening to Bach flute music, he always reminded me that in that place “our old diary was outlined”. He was referring to ‘El Periódico de Catalunya’ in which he as director and I as CEO share so many good and hard moments, but above all where an unbreakable friendship grew, the result of the sincerity and complicity that we gave each other from the beginning.
His great humanity could not hide when he was touched by a serious problem or when he radiated happiness. During the ten years that he was fighting cancer, he was an example for everyone. Not a single complaint, always a good gesture with friends and a look of hope with which he deceived us until the last moment he left us.
Franco ran the newspaper with the absolute freedom that Antonio Asensio gave him, even when the editor was squeezed by the all-encompassing power of Catalan pujolism or that of Felipe and Aznarism in Madrid. The independence of the newspaper had to be defended above political and economic pressures and that was not easy in times of financial weakness where only the growing support of the readers could save “our newspaper”.
Antonio Franco had a sixth sense for the news, something difficult to see in many journalists, despite spending many hours in his office and hovering between the sections of the newspaper. Sometimes I would recriminate him that he had to go out more, see that world that we were telling in the newspaper and then he would ask me for an example and I would tell him one as he had been in the run-up to the Forum of Cultures of Barcelona and he He told me with hair and signs why that was not going to work and that the mammoth architecture that would remain would not be fully profitable. Intuition, but also a fine journalistic nose. The anecdote of a bad review that the film critic had published in his Newspaper about the movie ‘The Dead Poets Club’ by Robin Williams and that he had strangely gone to see the cinema circulated. He called the critic and told him that he did not agree and that he would consider writing a counter-criticism that might be titled the Club of Dead Journalists. He knew how to respect opposing opinions, but he entered the debate with ardor. Everything that the newspaper published was read, cared for and pampered to the point of lifting plates from the newspaper at dawn to fix typographical errors.
He lived for journalism and for journalism. It was his passion together with Barça and Elche CF, which he followed every week. The last time we spoke, he told me that the club from Elche had been very solid against Simeone’s and that Madrid had needed Vinicius’s goals to draw, “you’re going badly.” He always messed with me for being from Madrid, with me and with everyone, because I remember that every Monday he and Rubalcaba had 5 minutes on the phone to discuss the league match from opposite positions.
In recent times, together with Pere Rusiñol and Andreu Missé, we had some croissants for breakfast at their house and talked a little about everything, especially journalism and politics. His vision was still accurate and his head told him that he still had many things to tell “despite my retirement,” he said. Ignacio Escolar, director of elDiario.es encouraged him to write in our newspaper and he did so sometimes, but although he had all the affection and respect for us, his heart continued to beat for El Periódico de Catalunya and most of his latest chronicles reside in its pages. Now he was worried that the new Periódico de España of the current editor of ‘El Periódico de Catalunya’ neglects “our newspaper” because of Madrid’s egocentric adventure.
He loved his newspaper above all else, he put his soul in it through thick and thin. He defended him against dozens of external attacks. He standardized an edition in Catalan without fuss and we learned from him to tell things rigorously without being pedantic or boring.
A friend has left, a reference for all of us who love journalism and his memory will be an incentive not to let it fall down the ravines of conformity and laziness, to continue to raise the quality of information and make it arrive with honesty until the last corner where there is a reader who wants to get closer to the truth.
That was the vital objective of a newspaper director who today by leaving us creates a deep void. There is so much to do, Antonio. We will try to do it for you too.