AAN Board Meets in Memphis

Association Ends FY '98 With $70,000 Surplus; Phoenix New Times to Host 2000 Convention.

There were no Israeli/PLO-sized issues on the program when the AAN board of directors convened for its annual mid-year meeting in Memphis on Oct. 16.

“Unlike past meetings that were quite rancorous — when we were debating about things like our relationship with IAJ [Institute for Alternative Journalism] — this year’s board meeting went pretty smooth,” says board Vice President Patty Calhoun. “It was good to find out that we [AAN] are actually solvent.”

Kicking off the October session were the financials. AAN Executive Director Richard Karpel and Treasurer Bill Towler reported that the association ended fiscal year 1998 with a $70,000 surplus. The revelation was in stark contrast to earlier concerns that AAN was slouching toward insolvency.

“In January,” says Karpel, “I was worried about the possibility of a huge deficit. But we were able to sell a series of donated ads this summer, and that, together with an outstanding convention, produced the surplus.”

In addition to AAN’s financial health, the board addressed a number of other items. Here’s the recap:

The board gave its okay to reserve for Sony Music four of the eight half-page donated ads that will be sold during the present fiscal year (which started Oct. 1). Sony has already booked two (“Sessions at West 54th”, Bob Dylan) of its four ads.

AAN Director of Marketing Adam Ebbin presented a report on the feasibility of a national classified advertising network of AAN papers. Ebbin said that several national and state newspaper trade associations successfully operate classified ad networks, and he believes a similar program could be established within AAN. The board directed Ebbin to continue his research and to form an oversight committee of AAN publishers and classified ad managers.

Phoenix New Times ‘ offer to host the AAN convention in 2000 was approved by the board, and Gambit Weekly was given the go-ahead for New Orleans in 2001.

Admissions chair Clif Garboden presented a revised evaluation form for screening applying papers. According to Garboden, the new form encourages admission committee members “to evaluate papers according to a less strictly defined standard and frees them of the tyranny of numbers.” In addition, the board approved an increase in the membership application fee from $50 to $150.

Editorial chair Safir Ahmed reported on the results of his committee’s deliberations last month in Evanston, Illinois. Ahmed said that the committee put the finishing touches on the new Diversity Fellowship program; slightly retooled some of the editorial awards contest categories; and began planning for the editorial stream at next year’s AAN convention.

Advertising chair Judy Jablonski announced that the AAN Advertising and Promotional Design Awards would be brought back in 1999.

First Amendment chair Tim Redmond reviewed the newsrack issue and said that he planned to present a First Amendment award to a deserving AAN member at the Memphis convention.

The board directed the AAN staff to re-institute an area on the AAN website featuring media coverage originally published in AAN-member papers. The stories will be selected and posted by AAN staffers.

The board asked for more background information before agreeing to endorse a proposed group plan credit card processing service.

A membership termination process was initiated against The Times of Acadiana as a result of its purchase in August by Thomson Newspapers, a Canadian media conglomerate that owns dozens of daily newspapers. The issue will come to a vote at the annual meeting on May 29 in Memphis. The Times will get the boot at that meeting if at least two-thirds of all AAN papers vote to terminate the paper’s membership.

The board also reviewed several issues that were raised prior to the meeting by San Francisco Bay Guardian Editor and Publisher Bruce Brugmann. Although no action was taken on Brugmann’s recommendations on the AAN newsletter and IAJ/IMI, AAN President and Nashville Scene Publisher Albie Del Favero told the board that he agreed with Brugmann’s complaints about the lack of an active committee structure, and he promised that steps would be taken to make improvements in that area.

Del Favero also announced that he and Richard Karpel have been interviewing consulting firms to facilitate the long-range planning process and have narrowed their search to two finalists: GinComm Group, San Francisco and Smith-Bucklin & Associates, Washington, D.C. A decision will be made by November 2, and the first step in the process is a comprehensive needs assessment survey of AAN members. The long-range planning committee will meet in San Francisco on January 28-29, 1999 just before AAN West.

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