AAN Bylaws Committee Tackles Ownership Issues

Members to consider proposed bylaw amendments at convention.

For the first time in AAN history, the Organization/Bylaws Committee has developed a systematic means to deal with member papers that are purchased by daily newspaper publishing companies.

In a May 12 letter to AAN editors and publishers, committee chairman and Pittsburgh City Paper Editor Andy Newman explained the group’s proposed bylaw amendments, which includes a formal procedure to kick out papers that stop meeting AAN’s editorial standards. The decision to create the termination process stems from the confusion that reigned at the last few annual meetings when AAN members were forced to grapple with the issue of daily paper ownership.

Because alternative papers owned by dailies are not allowed to apply for AAN membership, the committee examined whether papers purchased by dailies after joining should be prevented from maintaining their standing with the association. Although the committee agreed daily ownership alone was not enough to get a paper ousted by AAN, it developed a procedure to determine whether the editorial standards of acquired papers begin to slip.

AAN has extremely strict criteria for joining, but has no set procedure for tracking member newspapers, Newman said. The committee’s proposal will allow for closer examination of existing members within the AAN network, he said.

The general membership will have an opportunity to vote on the proposed bylaw amendments at the association’s annual meeting on June 3, the final day of the Phoenix convention. The committee is also recommending dozens of “technical” amendments that would provide internal consistency to the bylaws and bring them up to date.

The proposed termination procedure could be initiated by a petition of one-third of the members of AAN or by a three-fourths vote of the board of directors. If the process were initiated, a special committee would be appointed by the AAN president to review the content of the affected paper over a 12-month period. Once the committee made its recommendation, AAN members would vote by mail ballot to determine whether to terminate the paper’s membership. Termination would require a two-thirds vote of the membership.

Under to the proposed amendment, the special committee would scrutinize papers in much the same way the Admissions committee does.

The Bylaws Committee was split down the middle on one issue — whether the review process should be automatically triggered by an acquisition by a daily paper, or whether it should always require a membership petition or supermajority board vote.

“Our committee encompasses fairly broad interests within AAN and we think this is a fairly elegant solution,” Newman says. “We think there’s a good possibility that the rest of AAN won’t hate it.”

Leave a Reply