Comment from the High Plains Reader

Dear Editor,

It was not with any surprise that advocates for the small, independent “alternative” at your annual meeting in Pittsburgh were Patty Calhoun, editor of Westword, and Tim Redmond, executive editor of the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

When our budget still had such “fat” and we could afford to attend AAN conventions, those same two individuals showed particular interest in our efforts to grow and sustain an alternative newsweekly in the conservative, rural, hinterland.

The Maui Time Weekly was another on the list of applicants, if we remember right. We are pleased that the voices of Calhoun and Redmond still endeavor to bolster the efforts of upstart papers that are challenged for position as well as survival.

It’s ironic, however, that perhaps when some enterprises especially need it, the resources are not quite there. Only after they’ve grown up are they allowed to play with the big boys.

I can’t help but think that some papers might not fall through the cracks if mentorship and support were there when they, in fact, needed it most.

We are not a big chain or conglomerate. Here in North Dakota, our effort is very much akin to early, groundbreaking efforts to substantiate alternative press and its legitimacy.

For example, how many of you know that the editor and publisher of the High Plains Reader — yours truly — is being sued for $39,000 in “damages” by the local County Commission for public advocacy which “delayed” the demolition of two historic registry landmarks? As newspaper colleagues, you certainly must appreciate the significance of such punitive, malicious abuse of process by public officials. Hopefully, your membership and leadership care about such issues even as they affect future AAN members, as well as our basic constitutional protections.

AAN possibly does not know the types of assistance and support some potential members need. But, I assure you, our paper is not alone in that category.

Thanks to Calhoun and Redmond — and to Bill Towler of City in Rochester, N.Y. — for being true advocates for the small, struggling, independent press.

It’s two years since we attended AAN. Our last critique, actually, was affirming, and the nominating committee (barely) recommended our membership be granted, but the voting body did not agree.

Redmond did “little newspapers” proud in New Orleans with his stump speech challenging AAN to not forget the new frontiers of alternative journalism, out there in small, rural towns like Fargo.

Ironically, we’ve hardly heard from anyone at AAN since. Somehow, therein lies a challenge that’s often best left unsaid; out of sight, out of mind.

My most sincere regards,

John Strand
High Plains Reader