AAN screens applying papers for membership based on the quality and appropriateness of their editorial content. Even good community newspapers are rejected because what they cover doesn’t fit with the alternative sensibility.
I feel safe in speaking for the entire Admissions Committee when I say that having the people who buy your ads write your columns and features is poor journalism. It’s an unprofessional practice that creates destructive conflicts of interest and undermines the credibility of the press. PR flacks (or “professional liars” as we call them in the newsroom) refuse to understand this because they have a vested interest in making sure everything written about their clients is positive — even if it isn’t true. But the line between editorial and advertising is something AAN takes quite seriously, and any publisher who allows the editorial side of a paper to be used by commercial interests doesn’t belong in the organization.