Almost 220 folks from the alternative newspaper business persevered through chilly temperatures and bad travel conditions to attend the annual AAN East regional conference at The M Street Hotel in Washington, D.C., Feb. 17-18.
AAN wasn’t able to line up a suitable keynote speaker for the lunch this year, but Executive Director Richard Karpel stepped in with brief yet heartfelt remarks conveying how important alternative journalism is in light of the current political atmosphere. Attendees were invited to eat and network at tables designated by job type. Conversation was lively, but the biggest buzz occurred when Karpel announced that Bill Clinton would speak at the association’s annual convention in June.
The cocktail reception Friday night was also well-attended, and there was plenty of good interaction and networking. The full bar and ample food helped to keep the mood elevated. Later that night, approximately 15 AAN East attendees talked shop at a nearby restaurant in an informal EWOK (Eat With your Own Kind) organized by Design & Production Committee member Mike Kalyan of Washington City Paper.
Much of the editorial programming that was so successful at AAN West was repeated, including Willamette Week’s “Lessons Learned From a Pulitzer-Winning Investigation” — although Mark Zusman’s flight was delayed, forcing Nigel Jaquiss and moderator Patty Calhoun to go it alone.
The IRE “Better Watchdog Workshop” was led by Ron Nixon of the New York Times, with additional insight on the Freedom of Information Act provided by Claudia James, the president of PodestaMattoon.
New editorial programming included “Breaking a Monopoly: The Newsday Circulation Scandal,” in which Long Island Press reporter Christopher Twarowski discussed his research method of hanging out at the garbage dump.
The loudest seminar was definitely “Creative Consultative Selling” with Dianne Rossi, a combined classified and retail workshop. Rossi invited participants to “mindmap” by drawing ideas on the walls in teams. Amid much chatter and laughter, several valid marketing campaigns were plotted (and a few dirty ones — ask Independent Weekly’s Robby Robbins about “pucking all night”).
The design and production roundtables produced good collaboration, and the daylong Adobe seminar by Conrad Chavez was well-received, despite some participants showing signs of a very late night.
AAN is presently conducting a post-conference survey, the results of which will be reported in two weeks, along with the results from the AAN West conference.
In the meantime, click here for an AAN East Photo Gallery!