AAN Board Activates Termination Procedure

Membership Status of Former AMI Papers to be Decided in Memphis.

In accordance with AAN policies adopted in 1997 after the Montreal convention, the association’s Board of Directors recently activated a membership termination procedure against three papers — Metro Times, Orlando Weekly and San Antonio Current. The procedure was authorized last month during a meeting in San Francisco after the papers had been sold by Alternative Media, Inc. (AMI) to the Scranton, Pa.-based Times Shamrock group, a company that owns daily papers.

The termination issue will come to a vote at the association’s annual meeting on May 29 in Memphis. The three papers will be expelled from the association only if two-thirds of all AAN member papers vote to kick them out. At present, AAN has 113 member papers.

According to the Daily Paper Clause in the AAN bylaws, alternative papers owned by a “daily newspaper publishing company or its affiliate” are prohibited from seeking membership in the association. However, the bylaws do not explicitly address the membership status of existing member papers that — like the Times Shamrock papers — have been acquired by such a company. To clear up that ambiguity and end the confusion that reigned at the 1997 annual meeting in Montreal, the AAN Board adopted a standard practice of automatically initiating a termination procedure in such cases. The policy was instituted following the Montreal convention, when AAN members voted by mail to maintain the membership of the Montreal Mirror. The Mirror had been purchased several months earlier by Quebecor, a multinational publishing company that owns several daily papers.

The termination process described in Article I, Section 6 of the AAN bylaws states that “(m)embership in the association may be eligible for termination” for a variety of reasons, including non-payment of dues, lack of participation in association activities, and “failure to meet the criteria for membership as set forth in this article.” The Board’s decision to activate the process whenever an existing member paper is bought by a company that owns daily papers is based on the “failure to meet the criteria for membership” clause.

“I think it is important that everyone understands that in activating this termination process, the Board is not saying that it wants the three Times Shamrock papers kicked out of the association,” says AAN President Albie Del Favero. “All we did is follow our policy, which provides for equal treatment of all companies that own daily papers. By doing so, we leave the ultimate determination of the company’s fitness for membership in the hands of AAN members.”

This is the second time in six months that the Board has been compelled to initiate a termination procedure because a company that owns dailies bought an AAN paper. The Board took the same action in October, after the Lafayette, La.-based Times of Acadiana was acquired by Thomson Corp., a firm that owns hundreds of media properties, including dozens of daily papers. However, the Board’s decision was rendered moot earlier this week when the papers’ management informed AAN that it does not plan to renew its membership in the association.

The Times Shamrock vote is complicated by the fact that the company already owns the Baltimore City Paper, an AAN member paper it acquired in 1987. The City Paper has retained its membership in the association even though it was owned by Times Shamrock when the Daily Paper Clause was added to the bylaws at the annual meeting in Seattle in 1992. At that meeting, AAN members approved a special “grandfather clause” specifically exempting the City Paper from the effect of the Daily Paper Clause.

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