AAN Hires Gambit Weekly Managing Editor

Shala Carlson, managing editor of the New Orleans-based alternative newspaper Gambit Weekly, has been hired by the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. She will take over as assistant editor, replacing Ryan Learmouth, whose last day at AAN is this Friday.

Carlson has worked for Gambit Weekly since 1998, when she accepted a position as assistant editor at the AAN-member paper. Two years later she was promoted to managing editor. She has been living with her parents in Opelousas, La., since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast last weekend.

Prior to her experience with Gambit, she worked for The Times of Acadiana, a former AAN-member paper based in Lafayette, La. Carlson began at the paper as a contributor and was later promoted to assistant editor. She left the Lafayette area to begin working at Gambit soon after The Times was bought by the Thomson Corp. (Thomson sold the paper to Gannett two years later.)

After graduating from Tulane University in 1993 with a B.A. in English and history, Carlson worked for almost three years at the nonprofit National Trust for Historic Preservation in New Iberia, La. Since turning to newspaper work, she has won several journalism awards from the Louisiana Press Association and the New Orleans Press Club, including the club’s first-place award this year for Critical Review.

“Shala Carlson was an invaluable member of the Gambit team,” says the paper’s editor, Michael Tisserand. “I am heartened that she will remain in the alt-weekly world. Shala’s contributions to AAN will undoubtedly prove to be as invaluable as her work in New Orleans.”

At AAN, Carlson will have full responsibility for the association’s aan.org Web site, which entails monitoring and reporting on news developments about AAN members and the alternative-newspaper industry; developing and editing freelance assignments; securing photos and graphics; and working with AAN’s Web development firm to enhance Web site functionality. She will also coordinate a joint editorial project reporting on the Katrina aftermath if AAN members decide to move forward with such a project.

AAN had placed online recruitment ads seeking an assistant editor early last week after Learmouth gave notice that he had accepted a job in the editorial department of another membership organization. However, as the extent of the destruction wrought by Katrina and the plight of Gambit Weekly employees became apparent, AAN Executive Director Richard Karpel decided to short-circuit the search process and offer Carlson the position. She accepted the offer and plans to arrive in Washington, D.C., to begin working at AAN by the middle of next week.

“The amazing thing is — especially given the unusual circumstances surrounding her hire — Shala may in fact be the best person on the planet for this job,” says Karpel. “I’ve known her and liked her for years, she is an extraordinarily competent journalist, and she understands what it’s like to work at an alternative newspaper and what AAN’s role is within the industry.”

Carlson will reside with Karpel and his wife at their home in Virginia until she finds a permanent residence in the Washington area.

Gambit Weekly will not begin publishing again for at least several months, and co-owners Clancy and Margo DuBos have encouraged their employees to seek work at other AAN papers. In a message posted yesterday on Gambit Weekly’s Web site, the DuBoses said, “We plan to publish again, of course, but we have no idea when that might be. We encourage all employees to get as close to ‘back to normal’ as possible, wherever that might be.”

AAN is in the process of setting up a jobs board on aan.org where AAN papers can list temporary or permanent positions available to Gambit employees. Several jobs are already posted on AAN’s Hurricane Katrina General Discussion Forum. The new job board will be ready for use within the next 24 hours.

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