Annual Meeting Wraps Up

Six New Member Papers Admitted into AAN.

When the gavel fell to close the annual meeting in downtown Washington on June 13, AAN found itself with six new member papers, seven new board members and a ratified agreement that will end its long-simmering feud with IAJ.

A total of 16 applying papers were considered by the general assembly, which consisted of representatives from more than 80 of AAN’s 108 member papers. When the votes were tallied, it was clear that the membership had given strong consideration to the admission committee’s recommendations, approving on the first ballot all five papers endorsed by the panel: Long Island Voice, The Omaha Reader, Seven Days, the Paper [Michigan] and Ace Magazine.

Here’s what the 11-member admissions committee, chaired by Salt Lake City Weekly Publisher John Saltas, said about each of the new members:

Long Island Voice
Stern Publishing’s Long Island Voice scored a unanimous endorsement. “Resources or not,” the panel wrote, “this paper excels in every category … Even the sex ads [had] pop.”

The committee also cited the paper’s strong emphasis on news — “a good mix of local and national” — and was enthused by its fresh voices and commentary. Some committee members felt Long Island Voice is even superior to the Village Voice.

The Omaha Reader
The committee branded The Omaha Reader’s design, “hideous, ugly,” but added, “we admire their ugliness.” The panel appreciated The Reader for taking a year off to re-apply for membership and said, “[The Reader] exhibits willingness and it can only get better…. [This paper] is just coming into its own and will likely greatly benefit from AAN membership.”

Seven Days
Burlington, Vermont’s Seven Days was deemed “not particularly edgy,” but “unique.” Despite lackluster news coverage, the panel was encouraged by the paper’s commentary and also made note of its sex poll, which, “like sex, is never bad, but wasn’t great.”

the Paper
The committee stamped Grand Rapids, Michigan’s the Paper, “the most encouraging of the new applicants.” The panel liked the Paper’s “attitude” and its clean design. Some members were also impressed by a few of its longer stories attacking such subjects as corporate welfare.

Ace Magazine
Lexington, Kentucky’s Ace Magazine was recognized for its “heart” and blue collar work ethic. The committee said that Ace reminded it of where most AAN papers had been at some point in their development and noted, “This paper is by no means a faux alternative.”

The remaining applicants — which received approval from less than two-thirds of the members casting ballots — failed to qualify for membership. However, Birmingham Weekly cobbled together a simple majority, and — as is the AAN custom — was given an opportunity to make its case before the general assembly.

Speaking with a soft, southern accent, Birmingham Weekly Publisher Tina Savas recounted how her publication had been “severely attacked and boycotted” by a large real estate company and Baptist ministers; and how it had lost a $15,000 contract in the first two weeks of publication after a story had irked an advertiser. She also spoke of her hard-working staff toiling to produce muckraking stories in a market “absolutely void” of such enterprise.

Savas’ words proved effective. On the second ballot, Birmingham Weekly was admitted to membership on a 68-14 vote. Savas responded with glee usually displayed by a youngster on Christmas morning.

The other election at the Washington convention was for the 10 board of director positions. Special elections were held for three board seats that were vacated last year when Kris Henning resigned as president. Each of these seats have one year remaining in their term:

Nashville Scene Publisher Albie Del Favero was unanimously approved to fill the president’s seat.

Westword’s Patty Calhoun won the vice-president’s spot.

Willamette Week’s Russ Martineau was elected to an at-large seat. He defeated LA Weekly’s Mike Sigman, Pittsburgh City Paper’s Andy Newman and Anthony Clifton of Review Publishing.

In other races:

Former Admissions Committee Chair John Saltas was elected secretary by acclamation.

Bill Towler of Rochester NY’s City Newspaper collected the treasurer’s spot. He ran unopposed.

Elected as the new admissions committee chair was Clif Garboden, managing editor of Phoenix Media Communications. He also ran unapposed.

Laura Markham of Alternative Media, Inc. was chosen for the marketing/publicity spot. She defeated Metro Newspaper’s Sharan Street.

Memphis Flyer Publisher Ken Neill was named convention chair.

LA Weekly’s Mike Sigman and Independent Weekly’s Sioux Watson were elected to the remaining at-large seats. They were elected from a field that included Newman, Clifton, Street and New Times Los Angeles Publisher Charles Gerencser.

All of these seats, with the exception of the one-year convention post, carry two-year terms.

Also on the meeting’s agenda was AAN’s relationship with IAJ. Under an agreement designed to facilitate a “friendly divorce” — approved by a 13 to two board vote the Wednesday preceding the convention — AAN’s subsidy to IAJ for the Alternet service would be sliced in half from $300 per paper to $150 for the upcoming year.

Another part of the agreement prohibits AAN from establishing its own syndication service for two and a half years. This stipulation was contested when Tim Redmond of the San Francisco Bay Guardian made a motion calling for the “non-compete” clause to be struck from the agreement. Redmond argued that the clause would cripple AAN’s ability to develop its own website as a resource for syndicated material for member papers.

Redmond also put forth a motion to bar AAN board members from simultaneously serving on the IAJ board.

Both motions failed after a lengthy discussion.

Lastly, members also approved AAN’s fiscal year ’99 budget, which included the creation of a new staff position designed to sell donated ad space.

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