Admissions Committee Reply to Santa Maria Sun

The following represents the “official” response of the AAN Admissions Committee to Steve Moss’ June 23rd letter to the committee re. the recent unanimous recommendation by the Admissions Committee that Moss’ paper, The Santa Maria Sun, not be admitted to AAN. That recommendation was later acted upon by the full membership at the AAN Annual General Meeting on June 7, 2003.

Dear Steve:

Thanks for expressing your obviously strongly-held views on the issue of whether or not the Santa Maria Sun should be admitted to AAN.

I don’t think a line-by-line response to your lengthy, profanity-riddled argument in defense of the “alternativeness” of the SMS is appropriate, Steve. Nor do I intend to respond to your assertion that our “official” Admissions Committee commentary about the SMS consisted of “embarrassing, unprofessional, adolescent rudeness.” Rather, I’d like to let readers of that commentary, your letter, and this one determine what’s what, as regards the Sun’s application for AAN membership. It’s a free country.

I would ask you and anyone else concerned with this issue to re-read the following section of the AAN By-Laws, as relates to admissions:

The following principles shall guide the Admissions Committee and Regular membership in their consideration of new member applications:
1. An applicant newspaper shall exhibit sufficient public service through journalism and editorial distinction and excellence to merit designation as a positive editorial alternative to mainstream journalism.

For as many years as I have been on the AAN Admissions Committee, this statement has pretty much been our guidepost as far as which applicant papers get recommended and which don’t. All eleven members of that committee read the three issues of the papers submitted very closely, in the weeks before our pre-convention meeting; we all arrive at our initial opinions of the merits and defects of the papers we read “on our own,” so to speak.

We form those opinions on the basis of the By-Laws criteria quoted above: does the applicant paper display “editorial distinction and excellence,” and does it provide in its market a bonafide “editorial alternative to mainstream journalism”? These two criteria are always at the heart of what we do. And you need to do both in order to merit our recommendation.

While the commentary speaks for itself, let me reiterate what the Admissions Committee unanimously said about the Santa Maria Sun. Your newspaper, Steve, passed muster on the editorial distinction and excellence criterion; no one seriously questioned the paper’s level of professionalism. What we all determined, independently, was that the paper was not a genuine editorial alternative to mainstream journalism. As the committee members repeated over and over again, nearly all of us found the SMS an excellent community newspaper, but as best we could tell one which didn’t have an “edgy” bone in its journalistic body.

Perhaps that was a function of the three particular issues we reviewed. Perhaps it was all a matter of bad timing, and the SMS does, on other occasions, do cutting-edge journalism. If that’s the case, we welcome the Santa Maria Sun’s re-application next year.

But as far as this year is concerned, the recommendation against admission for the SMS was, frankly, a no-brainer. Eleven different AAN publishers and editors, working entirely independent of each other, reviewed three issues of the Santa Maria Sun. All eleven determined that your newspaper failed to meet the By-Laws criteria of providing a “genuine editorial alternative” to mainstream journalism.

Perhaps you take issue with that being a membership criteria. Should you wish to petition the Board for a by-laws change, feel free to do so. But that’s an issue for the AAN Board, not the Admissions Committee. As long as the association’s By-Laws say what they say, we will continue to do our best in terms of those guidelines in recommending newspapers for admission.

Again, please apply again next year, if you feel the Committee has erred.


Kenneth Neill
Publisher/The Memphis Flyer
AAN Admissions Committee Chair