Jon Elliston, former managing editor of Mountain Xpress in Asheville, N.C., has received the backing of a John F. Kennedy Presidential Library Foundation research grant for his book on the civil-rights era attacks on Camp Summerlane, a biracial children's camp in the North Carolina mountains. Elliston left the paper last month in order to pursue the book full-time, a project which evolved from a series of articles he wrote for Xpress in 2008. When the stories first appeared, Elliston wrote that the series would “explore why and how it was that incensed adults from a tranquil mountain town laid siege to a camp full of children.” Two years later, he tells his former paper that he intends to use the grant to delve into the Kennedy Library’s Justice Department records of the attack.

Continue ReadingFormer Mountain Xpress Editor Awarded Research Grant

Editor Jon Whiten is leaving the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies; he will be replaced by current Editorial Awards and Advertising Director Jason Zaragoza. Whiten, who joined AAN in January 2006, is stepping down to focus on the local news website and arts & culture magazine he owns and operates in Jersey City, N.J. His last day on staff is March 31, but he will continue as a part-time contractor, overseeing, for a month or two, as Zaragoza transitions from his current position into the editor role.

Continue ReadingAAN’s Editor Stepping Down

Managing editor Jon Elliston will leave the Asheville alt-weekly in mid-April to write a book based on his 2008 Xpress story about a short-lived summer camp that was attacked and run out of the state in 1963. Elliston, who started contributing to Xpress in 2003 and was hired as news editor in 2005 and subsequently became managing editor, says his departure is "bittersweet" but necessary. "I had dreamed of writing this book in my spare time, but that's proved impossible," he says. "It's a story that's begging to be told, and it's become clear that in order to do it right, I'll need to make it my primary endeavor for at least six months or so." Meanwhile, Xpress staff writer Brian Postelle will start a new job next week doing PR for the city of Asheville, and multimedia editor Jason Sandford recently left the paper to work on his popular local blog. "These are major changes in our news staff, which have put us all in high gear. We're losing some strong news personnel," publisher Jeff Fobes says. "But Xpress has come through a number of staff changes over the years -- and we've managed to learn and grow from them."

Continue ReadingTop Editor Will Leave Mountain Xpress

Jon Gaskell and Cityview have had a turbulent past: He first edited the paper from 2000 to 2002, then left and started his own alt-weekly, Pointblank, which was admitted to AAN membership in 2003. Cityview was sold to some of Pointblank's investors in April 2005, and the two newspapers merged into one alt-weekly that was still called Cityview, with Gaskell as editor. He tells The Des Moines Register that "there was no drama" in his resignation this time around; his departure was announced in a publisher's note in the current edition of Cityview.

Continue ReadingGaskell Leaves Cityview, Again, With ‘No Drama’

In an effort to increase traffic to, and thus to member papers' Web sites, AAN modified the story-sharing Web site today to display two slightly different versions of the home page for different audiences. AAN members who are logged in will still be greeted by a home page featuring every story posted on the site, while the general public will only see content that has been selected with the general user in mind. In addition, AAN is running ads on blogs and at the South by Southwest Festival.

Continue ReadingAAN Experiments With Dual Home Pages

Whiten began working for AAN this week as editor of its alt-weekly portal, He received a M.A. in media studies last May from New York University, where he researched alt-weeklies and free commuter dailies. Whiten was also a freelance writer for the past four years, having reported on local politics and media for AAN member papers Boston's Weekly Dig and the New York Press, in addition to publications like Extra!, Block Magazine and the Jersey Journal.

Continue ReadingJon Whiten Joins AAN as Editor

As the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina continue to unfold, blogs the Web over are turning to the discussion of what exactly went wrong in those crucial early hours. The 2004 AAN-sponsored FEMA disaster story appears often. Most notably, Eschaton and Washington Monthly have linked to the story and the Sept. 7 follow-up published on, both written by Jon Elliston of the Independent Weekly. In addition, a Louisiana-specific report written by Gambit Weekly staffer Eileen Loh-Harrist shows up on Talking Points Memo.

Continue ReadingAAN FEMA Disaster Articles Appear in Blogosphere

As FEMA stumbles in response to Hurricane Katrina, it's instructive to re-read a couple of articles published in AAN papers eleven months ago. In the first -- a story sponsored by AAN and published in over 20 of its members' papers -- Jon Elliston and the Independent Weekly reported the Bush Administration was shifting FEMA resources from protection from hurricanes and other natural hazards to homeland security. Disaster in the Making was published as FEMA was preparing for Hurricane Frances, only three weeks after their bang-up performance on Hurricane Charley. "They're doing a good job," one former FEMA executive told Elliston. "And the reason ... is because it's so close to the election, and they can't fuck it up, otherwise they lose Florida -- and if they lose Florida, they might lose the election."

In Homeland Insecurity (which was reported and published in conjunction with Disaster in the Making), Eileen Loh Harrist and Gambit Weekly reported that FEMA snubbed Louisiana and violated its own funding standards when it failed to provide the state with badly-needed Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) funds to protect it from flooding. According to Loh Harrist, "the nearly $60 million pot of federal PDM money went to 31 other states and Puerto Rico. Texas received the biggest share, more than $8.8 million, followed by California ($6.1 million) and Florida ($5.3 million)."

Continue ReadingAAN Articles Predicted FEMA Disaster