AAN Board Members Zankowski and Newman Resign

Because of changes in their employment, Fran Zankowski and Andy Newman have resigned their seats on the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ board of directors.

AAN president Clif Garboden appointed Stephen Leon, editor and publisher of Metroland, in Albany, N.Y., to the one year remaining in Zankowski’s term as organization/bylaws chair.

The vice president position vacated by Newman will remain open until the matter is discussed at the AAN board’s next meeting, which will be held Oct. 9 in San Diego. By longstanding AAN tradition, the vice president is heir apparent to the presidency, so the selection of Newman’s successor carries particular weight.

Zankowski left New Mass. Media, which owns four alt-weeklies in New England, in July 2004 after five years as CEO. He explains, “I’m taking this time in my life to decide what I want to do next.”

Calling Zankowski’s departure “a blow,” Garboden says, “Fran applied his not-inconsiderable talents for management, leadership, process, and attention to detail, and oversaw the drafting of sweeping and essential bylaws changes that will arm AAN and its member papers to fight the threats posed by media consolidation.”

Zankowski counts those changes among his proudest accomplishments as board member. More than that, he takes with him the fond memories of “getting everyone together in a meeting and having deep, philosophical, thoughtful discussions that brought [the changes] about.”

AAN executive director Richard Karpel says, “Fran is a wonderful friend and a great board member and we all have our fingers crossed that he remains a part of this business.”

That’s the idea, Zankowski says. “Whatever I do, I want to stay with the alternative press. That’s where both my head and my heart belong.”

Zankowski also resigned his seat on the Membership Committee, which previous to the bylaw changes was known as the Admissions Committee. Chairperson Ken Neill of The Memphis Flyer has appointed Bingo Barnes of Boise Weekly to take his place.

Newman was elected to the board in 1999 as the organization/bylaws chair. In 2001, he was elected to the editorial chair vacated by David Carr (formerly of the Washington City Paper). According to Karpel, Newman did a fine job of carrying the torch: “Andy held the unofficial David Carr seat on the AAN board, which is reserved for visionary editors who are funny and charming and speak in a unique variant of the English language.”

After serving his term as editorial chair, Newman was elected vice president in 2003, during a convention hosted by his weekly, Pittsburgh City Paper. He pushed the organization hard, on diversity and issues of editorial integrity, Karpel says.

Newman will be stepping down as editor of the Pittsburgh City Paper in November 2004 to pursue writing opportunities in New York City. His aim is to tackle stories of a broader scope than possible at a local alt. “I have a whole file of ideas I encountered while researching other stories,” he says.

His decision to take on new challenges was made easier by the trust he has in his Pittsburgh staff, he says. “There’s a level of competence and confidence throughout. I’ve become redundant.”

Like Zankowski, Newman thinks highly of the board members with whom he’s worked. “I’ve called board members for trivial advice and in my darkest hours. The level of humanity was refreshing and so incredibly valuable — and it makes me believe in the mission of the industry.”

As one of the editorial voices on the board, however, he won’t miss certain things. “I’d rather drive carpet staples into my gums than hear the term ‘influentials’ again,” he says.

While the resignations are bittersweet for both Newman and Zankowski, they leave confident that what they’ve worked for will be carried on by whoever succeeds them. Says Newman: “I feel strongly about this board. It’s always looking out for its membership.”

Besides, departures aren’t always final. Zankowski says, “I look forward to the day I’m back — when my decisions are made.”

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