I went to my first AAN conference back in January 2000. I had just been named the editor of the Reno News & Review, and that AAN West conference (which has, more or less, morphed into what’s called the AAN Digital conference today) gave me my first chance to meet other people from other publications who, well, did what I did.
I was hooked. Ever since (through four different publications), I’ve been involved in one form or another with the incredible organization that is now called the Association of Alternative Newsmedia.
AAN was founded in 1978 by a group of alternative-weekly newspapers, to give voice and mutual support to their belief that the world needs an alternative to the homogenous thinking and hypercommercialization that often happens in mainstream media. The decades since have only made AAN’s mission more important, as the Internet Age’s biggest companies have unprecedented power to shape access to information around the globe.
To encourage membership from online-only and other alternative media outlets beyond the organization’s altweekly newspaper roots, over the past decade, AAN has actively expanded the membership definitions and criteria. Most recently, in 2013, a new class of membership was introduced.
Where Regular members have long been defined as serving a “general interest” audience, AAN is now offering an Affiliate membership for members that serve a niche: Websites devoted to fishing, music magazines, LGBT newspapers, publications for ethnic communities and all other kinds of topic or audience-focused media are encouraged to apply for Affiliate membership.
The membership committee has well-established guidelines to assess whether Regular membership applicants meet the AAN bylaw requirement to “exhibit sufficient public service through journalism and editorial distinction and excellence to merit designation as a positive editorial alternative to mainstream journalism.” You can read more about this in the membership guidelines, and find the AAN bylaws here.
Affiliate membership applicants face a deliberately less rigorous application process. Partly, this is because Affiliates may be niche media organizations, and it would be impossible to develop requirements tailored to every conceivable niche. Affiliates may also be general-interest publications that have their heart in the right place but, for whatever reason, aren’t currently meeting the standards of Regular membership, and could benefit from the knowledge and support of their peers.
The Membership Committee prepares a report that details the strengths and weaknesses of Regular membership applicants in terms of representing that “positive editorial alternative,” and gives a recommendation about acceptance. This report is publicly distributed to the member organizations that are voting on the fate of applicants at the general meeting.
In keeping with the less rigorous bar for Affiliate members, applicants are not required to “exhibit sufficient public service” or particular “excellence” in their journalism. However, the general membership still votes on accepting Affiliates, so applicants may choose to include details about their alternative journalism outlook on the application form, which the Membership Committee may share in its report to the member organizations at the AAN general meeting.
To apply for Regular or Affiliate membership:
- Complete the online application for membership.
- For applicants with a print publication, nine (9) copies each of the three issues that best represent your work from 2015 and up to February 1, 2016 (for distribution to the members of the Membership Committee).
- Online-only publications should send us the URLs to the three issues that represent your best work from 2015 and up to February 1, 2016. URLs should include links to at least one example per week—if your site has these—of a longform story; a news story; a feature story; arts and entertainment coverage in the areas of music, stage, movies, etc.; listings and food coverage. Online-only publications may also submit PDFs of those same weeks.
- Please do not submit “Best Of ” or similar special issues.
- Send a nonrefundable check of $150 payable to AAN to help offset the expense of the admissions process.
All membership application materials must be received in the AAN office by 5 p.m. on May 1, 2016. Applications received after that date will not be considered for membership. Please write “AAN Application” on the package and send it to:
Association of Alternative Newsmedia
116 Cass Street
Traverse City, MI 49684
We encourage you to read the membership guidelines and to consider attending the AAN Annual Convention in Austin. Not only is the information-sharing at the convention one of the benefits of AAN membership, but it is an unparelled chance to meet current AAN members and introduce your publication to them in advance of the general meeting’s vote on membership applicants.
If you have any questions or would like further information, please contact the AAN office at firstname.lastname@example.org
AAN Board of Directors