Endorse Web site and newsletter redesigns
A substantial majority of AAN editors and publishers believe their trade association should cover news of the alternative newspaper industry much as they would cover news in their own cities, aggressively but fairly.
Results from a survey mailed to AAN editors and publishers show that 91 percent of respondents feel the AAN’s Web site should always link to stories in the rest of the media about AAN members, not just when those stories are positive.
In addition, 62 percent of respondents say that on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the most aggressive, AAN News should be at a 7 or 8 on that scale. Another 24 percent say AAN News should be even more aggressive than that, at a 9 or 10.
“AAN papers pride themselves on being aggressive,” one respondent writes. “The trade organization would look silly soft-peddling news about the industry.”
Another respondent says: “Alternative newspapers hold themselves as media watchdogs and should be subject to the same vigorous standards as those we hold others to. It is an earned privilege to belong to AAN. Part of that membership should entail being held to standards as a business and as a publication.”
Other respondents agree but urge accuracy and fairness.
“’Aggressive’ isn’t the right term. AAN News shouldn’t go out looking for controversy, but it shouldn’t ignore it when it is discovered,” a respondent writes.
As one respondent puts it: “I think AAN News should cover important AAN members’ stories. But, if we do, we need to be careful to not be glib or clever. We need to check our facts real well and be careful about legal issues. … One little lawsuit could kill our organization.”
Another respondent is even more cautious. “Aggressiveness in coverage is tricky. My feeling is we should present stories already published – can’t hide them – but I’m unsure about original reporting from AAN staff. Stories about staff changes and purchases/sales are OK, but negative or controversial topics, I’m not so sure.”
Those who responded to the survey tend to be regular readers. Seventy-nine percent of respondents say they “always” read the newsletter, and another 17 percent say they “usually” read it. The bulk (41 percent) say they visit the AAN Web site several times a month, 27 percent say they visit it several times a week, and another 8 percent visit it daily.
Overall, the Web site gets slightly better marks than the newsletter, with 89 percent of respondents saying the Web site is good (71 percent) or excellent (18 percent) and 84 percent saying the newsletter is good (65 percent) or excellent (19 percent).
Respondents give a ringing endorsement to the redesign of both the Web site and newsletter earlier this year, especially the Web site. Eighty-nine percent say the Web site is somewhat (40 percent) or much better (49 percent) than before. As for the newsletter, 91 percent say it is somewhat (57 percent) or much better (34 percent) than before.
The survey was mailed to editors and publishers of the 122 AAN member papers in October, and 49 individuals responded.
For complete survey results, click here, and for comments, click here, or contact the AAN national office at 202 822-1955.