Evanston Dispatch: Editorial Cmte. Meeting and Writers Workshop Wrapup

Five members of AAN’s Editorial Committee met for a solid half-day meeting Aug. 14 in Evanston, Ill., to discuss and plan AAN editorial initiatives for the coming year. I wanted to give everyone a relatively brief outline of that discussion, but if you’d like more detail, a report of that meeting, which was prepared for the committee, is available now in AAN’s resource library.

Altweeklies.com: As a follow-up to a survey of editors earlier this summer, the editorial committee discussed, with AAN executive director Richard Karpel and Altweeklies.com editor Jon Whiten, steps that should be taken to improve the site’s appearance and functionality, and to increase its overall profile. While the site was initially conceived as a means toward buying and selling editorial content, there is convincing evidence that members are not using it in this way or at all. As such, we hope to revamp the site as a better showcase for member papers’ work, and to reposition the site for a larger audience.

The specific recommendations have been forwarded to AAN’s new Electronic Publishing Committee, which will consider the site at its September meeting.

Webinars: The editorial committee has committed to pursuing and creating online training and communication opportunities this year for AAN editors and writers. These will include regular livechats hosted on aan.org. We also will be pursuing other webinars that can be produced with other online journalism sites. Stay tuned!

Story-sharing: In recognition that there are still story-sharing/content needs at AAN papers, the committee considered a variety of proposals for shared content. This year, AAN also hopes to apply (and perhaps receive) journalism funding for some larger projects, while at the same time pursuing smaller stories that can be offered for free to member papers.

AAN awards: The committee reviewed the participation in last year’s contest, tweaked some rules that had ambiguous wording and added a new blogging category. Members also generated several ideas we hope to see implemented to improve the awards banquet and to raise the profile of the awards themselves.

Editorial programming at 2010 convention: The July 2010 convention in Toronto is almost a year away, but we hashed around a few ideas we’d like to see in programming, and reviewed the survey results from the ’09 Tucson convention.

All AAN editors and writers are more than encouraged to contribute ideas and suggestions to myself, or any committee members, on any of these topics. In addition to myself, Patricia Calhoun (Westword), Donna Ladd (Jackson Free Press), Jimmy Boegle (Tucson Weekly) and Scott Dickensheets (Las Vegas Weekly) attended the Evanston committee meeting.

In the afternoon, the committee moved over to the Medill campus to kick off the Alternative Journalism Workshop, attended by a small, but energetic, group of writers and editors from AAN papers around the country. Students from the Academy for Alternative Journalism (AAJ) also attended many of the sessions.

OC Weekly's Gustavo ArellanoOC Weekly writer and author of Ask a Mexican (among other things) Gustavo Arellano kicked off the weekend with a great talk about how he became a dedicated alternative newsweekly writer. You can watch a video of his talk (it’s not a great quality; I shot it on my flipcam) in the AAN resource library.

Following Arellano’s talk, attendees divided into three teams for a competitive hour of story-brainstorming. All three teams received a bunch of leftover candy from my paper’s Best of Santa Fe party. The No. 1 team received the most candy, ‘cuz that’s how we roll. The complete list of stories also is available in the AAN library.

Saturday was jam-packed with conversations on ethics, online content, political reporting and more. For some reason, medical marijuana and Nazis emerged as a prevalent theme throughout the day. Over lunch, attendees broke into smaller critique groups with editorial committee members to discuss stories they had submitted for discussion.

In the afternoon, we returned to hear Jackson Free Press co-founder and executive editor Donna Ladd give a rousing presentation on making a difference with your journalism, which also can be viewed in the resource library.

Westword's Patricia Calhoun and Joel WarnerWe ended the day with a discussion by Westword editor Patricia Calhoun and writer Joel Warner and a discussion of his 2009 AAN Feature Award-winning story, “The Good Soldier,” which left everyone very galvanized and motivated and, of course, ready to go the bar and talk some more.