OC Weekly editor Nick Schou's book about the dire last days of journalist Gary Webb is out at last, and many AAN members are excerpting it. Schou first met Webb at the peak of the controversy over "Dark Alliance," his 1996 San Jose Mercury Press series on collusion between the CIA and cocaine-trafficking Nicaraguan contras. Scourged by the mainstream media, a broke and unconsolable Webb sank into depression and committed suicide in December 2004. "Kill the Messenger: How the CIA's Crack Cocaine Controversy Destroyed Gary Webb" grew out of an OC Weekly article Schou wrote following his death. In "In These Times," former Village Voice columnist Doug Ireland calls Schou's book a "a meticulous, balanced account" of the affair and "a cautionary tale for anyone considering a career in investigative journalism."

Continue ReadingHot Off the Press: The Tragedy of Gary Webb

K.A. Paul, the jet-setting evangelical minister who attempted to persuade House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert to resign amid the fallout of PageGate, is himself no stranger to controversy. Josh Harkinson relates in Mother Jones how his former paper, the Houston Press, exposed the cleric's profligate use of a private jet.

Continue ReadingHouston Press Chronicled Jet-Setting of Hastert’s Would-Be Confessor

The winners of the Clarion Awards were recently announced, and Patricia Calhoun, editor of Westword, took first place in the Regular Opinion/Editorial category, small circulation division, for her weekly column. Houston Press Staff Writer Todd Spivak also won for his feature story "Against All Odds" in the small circulation division, and SF Weekly Staff Writer Cristi Hegranes won for her feature story "The Identity Makers" in the large circulation division. Both men and women are eligible for the Clarion Awards, which are presented by The Association for Women in Communications.

Continue ReadingVillage Voice Media Writers Tapped for Clarion Awards

Craig Malisow "crossed the line" during his investigation into online pharmacy referral services, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Two agents from the DEA visited the Houston Press office yesterday and seized some generic Vicodin and anabolic steroids that Malisow had purchased through an online service, he reveals in a story published today on HoustonPress.com. The letter from Malisow that was published on Romenesko yesterday, in which the reporter mentioned purchasing the painkillers and asked for advice in dealing with a blackmail attempt from one of the service's employees, was "a bonehead move" that was "directly from the King of Bad Ideas, Lord of Planet Dumbass," he says. Michael Lacey, executive editor of Village Voice Media, addressed the blackmail attempt and the seizure in a statement released this morning, saying the company believes "the entire shooting match" would benefit "from full disclosure as well as a vigorous legal defense."

Continue ReadingDEA Seizes Drugs From Houston Press Reporter

Foodies at Creative Loafing (Atlanta), Riverfront Times, Westword, L.A. Weekly, East Bay Express, City Pages (Twin Cities), Phoenix New Times, and Houston Press picked up ten of the 21 nominations for which they qualified in the 2006 James Beard Foundation Journalism Awards announced today. The complete list is available as a PDF here. Alt-weeklies were particularly dominant in the "Newspaper Writing on Spirits, Wine or Beer" category, in which all three nominees are AAN members. The awards recognize and honor excellence and achievement in the culinary arts.

Continue ReadingAlt-Weeklies Lap Up Nominations in Food-Writing Awards

A recent survey of AAN papers revealed that the applications alt-weeklies are using to track circulation are as diverse as the newspapers themselves. A few papers rely on their in-house wiz for a custom-made program, but for the rest of the industry, a commercial package is the only sophisticated option. Alt-weekly circulation insiders describe their woes, successes, and dreams of better uses for the numbers.

Continue ReadingCirculation Software Makes Life Easier at Alt-Weeklies

The upcoming AAN regional conferences will each include a "Better Watchdog Workshop" organized by Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE). The AAN West workshop on Jan. 28 will be led by Brant Houston, executive director of IRE, professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, and author of "Computer-Assisted Reporting: A Practical Guide." The AAN East workshop on Feb. 18 will be led by Ron Nixon, projects editor on the New York Times computer-assisted reporting team. Nixon led an IRE session at AAN West two years ago, when he was computer-assisted reporting editor for The Minneapolis Star Tribune, and attendees described it as "worth repeating." Both workshops will cover effective searches on the Internet, cultivation of sources and interviewing, getting the most out of open records laws, and quickly providing context and depth with easily accessible databases.

Continue ReadingBrant Houston and Ron Nixon To Lead IRE Sessions at AAN Conferences