Board Addresses Membership, Budget Issues

One member paper was voted out of the association and the status of another was referred to committee at the Board of Directors meeting that was held last week prior to the AAN West conference in San Francisco.

The membership of Casco Bay Weekly, which was closed late in 2002 and reopened under new ownership a few weeks later, was deemed to have terminated under Article I, Section 5 of the association bylaws, which states, “Membership in the Association shall not be personal and shall not survive the dissolution of any member newspaper.”

Another issue of first impression was raised by the merger of AAN-member Omaha Reader and non-AAN publication Omaha Weekly: Should the merged paper — Omaha Weekly Reader — retain its status as an AAN member? After a lengthy discussion, the Board referred the issue to an ad hoc membership committee headed by Admissions Chair Ken Neill. The committee will review the paper under the termination procedure set forth in Article I, Section 6(b).

The same committee will also review the issue of the membership status of AAN papers that make obvious changes in their focus and mission. The issue was raised when Columbus Alive late last year changed its name to Alive! and announced that it would change its focus to “music, arts and culture.”

During the remainder of the meeting, the Board primarily addressed organizational budget issues stemming from the continued decline in AAN CAN sales. Executive Director Richard Karpel reported that the classified network came in over 30% below budget in the first four months of the current fiscal year, and that if the trend continued the association would find itself in a $200,000 hole by the end of the year. Karpel told the Board that he believed the decline in sales could be turned around by getting the message out to every AAN-member paper that it was in their best interest to sell ads into the network.

(Following the meeting President Bill Towler appointed Independent Weekly Classified Manager Robby Robbins to the vacant Classified Chair on the Board. Accepting the appointment, Robbins, who from day one has been the biggest seller of AAN CAN ads, told the Board, “I am looking forward to working with all my classified colleagues to get this AAN CAN thing breathing again. I am so on it, promise.”)

After Karpel addressed the AAN CAN slowdown, the Board considered a number of options to help mitigate the potential budget shortfall. However, with over $700,000 in assets and confidence in the organization’s ability to turn the AAN CAN situation around, the Board settled on the following, limited measures:

1) The AAN Advantage “donated ad” inventory for FY03 was increased from one to two half-pages, and

2) The snail-mail hard-copy edition of the newsletter was eliminated in favor of an increased emphasis on member communication via the Web site and e-mail newsletters.

Eliminating the print edition of the newsletter will save the organization $28,000 per year.