In its first year administering AAN's editorial contest, Northwestern University's journalism school processed 1,404 entries, a slight decline from last year's total of 1,490. The decline is probably due to rule changes that resulted in the elimination of two categories and a decrease in the number of entries allowed in other categories. Member participation continues to hover around the 100-mark, with 97 newspapers and seven independent cartoonists submitting work. Finalists will be announced on AAN.org in May.
That seems to be the opinion of Ed Avis, who looks at the challenges alt-weekly owners are facing in a piece for Quill, a magazine published by the Society for Professional Journalists. Not surprisingly, he says the biggest challenge to the business is the internet. He talks to the Austin Chronicle's Louis Black, Creative Loafing's Ben Eason, and Times Shamrock's Don Farley to see where they are at in relation to the internet, and, more importantly, where they're trying to go. Ultimately, Avis thinks that the challenge of the online market -- in concert with the aging of the original alt-weekly founders -- is what's behind the industry's increased consolidation. Northwestern University professor and Academy for Alternative Journalism director Charles Whitaker agrees. "I think the (older owners) have had difficulty adjusting and figuring out the new media landscape, particularly the internet and things like Craigslist," he says. "At the same time, a group of new owners said, 'We can do this as a chain. We still have our alternative press sensibilities, but by pooling our resources we can run these papers more efficiently than they had been run in the past.'"
Members have just over a week to enter the 2008 contest. Entries must be registered through the contest website by midnight EST on Fri., Jan. 25. Payments and hard copies of entries should be sent to Charles Whitaker, Northwestern University Fisk Hall,1845 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208. Hard copies must be received at Northwestern by 5 p.m. on Mon., Jan. 28. For more information, contact contests (at) aan.org.
The early deadline is this Friday, Jan. 11; registration rates will increase by $50 the following day. The conference is slated for Jan. 30-Feb. 1 at the Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco, and will feature programming on topics ranging from online metrics to social networking. In addition, two separate open discussions, one for editors and the other for web-tech personnel, will be added to the program next week after AAN conducts a survey of registrants to determine when to schedule them. You can register online by clicking here.
The House yesterday passed a FOIA reform bill that the Senate passed late last week, sending the bill to the president's desk. The Associated Press reports that the administration isn't saying whether Bush will sign the bill. (He had promised a veto of an early draft of the legislation). The ten media groups -- including AAN -- that make up the Sunshine in Government Initiative (SGI) applauded the Congress for passing what could become the first overhaul of FOIA laws in a decade. "After years of growing government secrecy, today's vote reaffirms the public's fundamental right to know," says Rick Blum, coordinator of SGI. "Fixing FOIA isn't a secret. This bill makes commonsense changes to help the public know what government is up to."
AAN director of sales and marketing Roxanne Cooper and her assistant, Tiffany Kildale, resigned last week after accepting new positions with different employers. Cooper will be leaving AAN in February to take over as associate publisher of the Philadelphia City Paper, and Kildale departs next month to assume the position of meeting coordinator at the Chemical Producers & Distributors Association in Washington, D.C.
Due to a 2004 change in the association's bylaws, five papers that have taken on new majority owners in the past two years will have their AAN membership reviewed in 2008. The Membership Committee will evaluate The Other Paper, Boston's Weekly Dig, East Bay Express, Metro Pulse, and Cityview, and will issue a report to members a week before the 2007 annual convention. To retain their membership, each paper must be affirmed by at least one-third of the members voting at the annual meeting in Philadelphia, which is tentatively scheduled for June 7.
This Friday is the deadline for early registration for this year's AAN West conference, to be held in San Francisco Feb. 1-2. For AAN members, early registration is $75 per person (non-members pay $150). After Friday, both of those rates go up $25 per person. You can register online here. In addition to the four streams of programming (Business, Design & Production, Editorial, and Sales), the AAN West Planning Committee has some parties planned that are sure to please. On Friday night, the North Coast Journal will host a cocktail reception featuring the best in Northern California wine, cheese, and beer. On Saturday night, the San Francisco Bay Guardian will throw down at Element Lounge. Be sure to check the AAN West website for full details on events and programming, as well as updates as we get closer to February. The registration deadline for the Web Publishing Conference is Jan. 4.
Fifty alternative newsweeklies in the U.S. and Canada will publish stories this week to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol. The editorial package, conceived and shepherded by staff at Sacramento News & Review, includes a retrospective by author and environmentalist Bill McKibben commissioned by AAN, a look-back by Kyoto participant Ed Smeloff, a drubbing of ABC News Correspondent and global-warming skeptic John Stossel, and a look at the controversial views of Danish environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg. Many of the papers participating in the project are also contributing their own stories focusing on local climate-change issues. Sacramento News & Review Editor-at-large Melinda Welsh says the anniversary was "a chance to reveal to millions of alt-weekly readers how little distance we've traveled these last 10 years toward a solution to this giant problem we've created for ourselves and future generations." Links to Kyoto Protocol Anniversary stories may be found at kyoto.altweeklies.com.