Medill to Administer AltWeekly Awards Contest

The Association of Alternative Newsweeklies announced today that Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism will assume responsibility for the administration of the AltWeekly Awards.

Since the contest’s inception in 1996, the AAN staff has been responsible for accepting and distributing entries, recruiting judges, and collecting scores and ranks. The staff also produces an annual book of the winners called Best AltWeekly Writing and Design.

AAN decided to look into having a third-party administrator after receiving record numbers of participating members and entries since the contest went online three years ago.

“Staffing the contest has always been difficult,” says AAN executive director Richard Karpel. “It’s a full-time job for about half the year, and a part-time job for the other half. It makes a lot of sense to outsource some of the heavy lifting to a larger organization.”

AAN’s Editorial Committee will continue to work with staff to select the categories each year and supervise the contest, while Medill will take over the day-to-day activities. For the 2008 AltWeekly Awards, AAN editorial projects manager Heather Kuldell will work with Medill professor Charles Whitaker to ensure a smooth transition. Kuldell, who handled the 2007 contest, will gradually assume other duties within the association.

The partnership is another step in the growing relationship between AAN and Medill. In addition to overseeing the AltWeekly Awards, Prof. Whitaker heads the Academy for Alternative Journalism, a summer program designed to train and recruit minority journalists to work at AAN papers. Medill also hosts AAN’s Alternative Journalism Writing and Design Workshop, which is held each year in August.

“In my dreams, AAN editors will turn to Medill first when looking for talent,” says Prof. Whitaker. “We also hope to be a resource for those editors and papers experimenting with digital storytelling and new ways to connect with their audience. Ultimately, I want people to think of AAN and Medill the way they think of Columbia and the Pulitzers or Harvard and the Nieman fellowship.”

The contest website will open for entrants on Mon., Dec. 3, 2007 and will close on the contest deadline, Fri., Jan. 25, 2008. More details will be available Monday.