Navy veteran turned newspaper publisher, how a class assignment became a business
When you walk into Luz Rebollar’s Scuttlebutt office in downtown Humble, you’ll find two desks: one facing the door, another opposite from the left wall.
The one facing the door has five to six large stacks of The Scuttlebutt, a veteran newspaper she started back in August of last year, ready for somebody to take it; whether individually or the whole stack.
As for the second desk, well, no one is at the second desk. At least, not yet.
Rebollar writes, edits, and pitches stories for the paper almost all by herself. She takes the stacks –a total of 15,000 papers printed –and drives anywhere that will carry her newspaper. Her trips consist of over 50 veteran organizations and veteran-friendly businesses, local colleges and universities.
Basically, she is the staff.
“I have several people who volunteer, but it’s pretty much just me,” Rebollar said.
The name, The Scuttlebutt comes from the Navy term for water fountain, which is where stories about the voyage would begin.
‘Good idea, Do it.’
Rebollar isn’t your regular entrepreneur or your modern William Randolph Hearst; she served in the Navy for two years. She later worked at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center helping veterans with their disability benefits.
After 16 years, she quit her job at the VA and decided to pursue a degree full time at the University of Houston.
It was there where she was given an assignment that lead to the idea of a newspaper that would cater to veterans.
“The assignment was, ‘If you could start a periodical, or a magazine or a journal, what would it be, and who would your audience be?’” Rebollar said. “And of course I thought, ‘Oh, I would do something for veterans.’”
Her time at the VA had made Rebollar aware of how often information wasn’t getting passed to veterans.
“There are so many resources, so much help for veterans, but it wasn’t really getting to them,” Rebollar said.
She completed her assignment and turned it in. When she got her paper back, her professor wrote, “Good idea. Do it.”
“I kept that paper, (for like) four or five years,” Rebollar said. “The idea was just in the back of my head.”
Her husband encouraged her to start a veteran newspaper, but Rebollar said she didn’t know anything about the newspaper business or journalism, nor did she have any knowledge of page layouts. Thus, the idea remained in her head.
Rebollar said she wanted to pursue a career that would have nothing to do with the VA, but veterans insisted on her help.
“Veterans kept calling me, saying, ‘I know you don’t do this anymore, but I got this letter and I don’t understand.’ ‘I know you don’t do this anymore, but I have a question,’” Rebollar said.
Rebollar struggled with the dilemma of choosing between her new job or being a resource to veterans. The ultimate decision came when she visited a Vietnam veteran who had fallen ill, and his wife gave her the affirmation she needed.
“She tells me in Spanish, ‘If nobody has done it, it’s because God’s waiting for you to do it,’” Rebollar said.
Rebollar quit her job soon after.
The first issue –which took about three weeks to put together – debuted in August 2015 with a total of 12 pages.
Eight months in, the issue is now up to 20 pages. She gets calls from the local veterans organizations about events, and she visits veterans and families to tell their stories.
Although she doesn’t have a staff, people write and send in stories of events she is unable to attend.
Army veteran and contributing writer Joel Torres discovered The Scuttlebutt when Rebollar attended a Gathering of the Eagles meeting and she gave out issues of the paper to the organization’s members.
But unlike Rebollar, Torres does have a background in photography and journalism. Though, Torres said he’s not really a writer.
“I’ll submit a couple of stories here and there,” Torres said. “It’s a way to get the stories out to veterans who served, and trying to give back to the community.”
Rebollar’s cousin, Elia Calderon, who is a veteran as well, said that although her cousin left her position at the VA as an advocate to pursue other life goals, she is still involved with helping the veteran community.
“As a veteran, I am thankful for people like her who give back so much and allow the voices of those who are sometimes ignored be published and heard,” Calderon said. “I hope to see her newspaper become national and to have them distributed throughout our great country.”
In September, Rebollar emailed the professor who sparked the newspaper idea, Fred Schiff, an associate professor at UH.
“He was like, ‘I’m so impressed! I’m so glad you did it!,’” It looks like a professional newspaper, I wouldn’t have thought this was one person behind this,’” Rebollar recalled. “He was really excited for me.”
But flipping through the twenty pages of stories and information, her picture is nowhere in sight.
“It’s not about me, it’s about the vets,” Rebollar said. “Everyday is Veterans Day!”
To volunteer, contribute stories or subscribe to monthly publications, send an email to Luz@myscuttlebutt.com