Years in print:
By Don Corrigan
Letters of congratulations from aldermen, congressmen, diplomats and world leaders have been swamping Antonio Lombardo of South County.
Typical of the salutations is one from President Bill Clinton, who congratulates Lombardo as publisher of Il Pensiero. The newspaper for the Italian community in St. Louis is celebrating its 90th birthday.
“Your journal has faithfully reported the news through some of the most dramatic and successful periods of our nation’s history, becoming an integral part of the heritage of the Italian community throughout Missouri and Southern Illinois,” the President declared.
Lombardo said he is pleased with the congratulatory letters, but he is most proud of the most recent anniversary issue itself. Il Pensiero, which means “The Thought,” is a rare newspaper survivor.
“We are known as an ethnic paper. A lot of our stories actually come from Italy and are written in Italian,” said Lombardo. “When my brother-in-law took over the paper in 1967, the Hungarian, Polish, German and the Italian communities in St. Louis all had a paper. Now we’re the only one left.”
According to Lombardo, there are now  11 Italian ethnic newspapers still surviving in America. He attributes the longevity of Il Pensiero to support from advertisers, many of them from “The Hill,” St. Louis’s Italian area, as well as support from Italian clubs.
Lombardo puts the newspaper together every two weeks, sometimes virtually by himself. His brother-in-law and partner in the enterprise, Anthony Gandolfo, has his own business to run that takes most of his hours.
The Italian newspaper publisher prints 5,000 copies, with about half mailed to residences by subscription and the other half distributed in store stacks, primarily on “The Hill.” He moved in 1975 to a home off Tesson Ferry Road in South County. He puts the newspaper together at home, occasionally with the help of his wife, Lina, and 31-year-old daughter Linda.
“I love publishing the newspaper and plan to keep it going as long as I can,” said Lombardo. “But I couldn’t do it without the fax machine the Italian government gave me, and the stories I get from Italy over it.
“I can’t afford to pay reporters,” added Lombardo. “So it’s important that I get stories from Italy over the AGI news service to run in the paper.”
According to Lombardo, most of his readers are Italians who have strong roots in Italy and pride in their heritage. “I worry about the Italians of the younger generation. They don’t seem to be as interested in where they came from,” said Lombardo. “They’ve become part of the melting pot, and the Italian roots get lost.
“It has had an effect on the newspaper,” noted Lombardo. “I used to have correspondents in Benton, Edwardsville and Collinsville, Illinois, and Kansas City, who would send dispatches about what was going on in their Italian communities. Nobody wants to do that anymore.”
Nevertheless, Lombardo gets a good shot of morale about every five years when he attends the world convention of Italian newspapers in Rome. “There are Italian newspapers from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Australia represented at the convention,” said Lombardo. “The Italian government pays a lot of the expenses for it because it wants to encourage Italian culture and business around the world.”
(Originally published in the St. Louis Journalism Review 9/1994)