Seattle Weekly, The Village Voice and Westword have all won 2008 Prevention for a Safer Society (PASS) Awards, which honor journalists "who try to focus America's attention on our criminal justice system, juvenile justice system, and child welfare systems in a thoughtful and considerate manner." The awards are sponsored by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Continue ReadingThree VVM Papers Win Criminal Justice Reporting Awards

In a Dec. 31 memo to all Village Voice Media staffers, CEO Jim Larkin and executive editor Michael Lacey say "this year we have found it necessary to make staff reductions and have placed all staff openings on hold." The memo also details "additional measures" being taken by the company to weather the current economy storm. All VVM senior managers and officers (including Larkin and Lacey) are taking 15 percent pay cuts, all publishers and editors are taking 10 percent pay cuts, and VVM is suspending its match into the company's 401(k) plan. MORE: Westword loses three editorial staffers, The Pitch lays off several, City Pages parts ways with two, and New Times Broward-Palm Beach eliminates several positions.

Continue ReadingVVM Memo Discusses Company-Wide Layoffs and Cutbacks

Responding in part to rumors circulating on a Denver website that Village Voice Media is on the brink of collapse, president and COO Scott Tobias talks to Westword's Michael Roberts about how the company's 15 papers are faring. Tobias says the company as a whole remains profitable and any talk of insolvency is hogwash, but concedes that times are tough. "Are we soft?" he asked. "No question. We go as our local mom and pops go, and our local mom and pops are having a hard time." He also talks about the company's new "uberblogger" strategy, which started with Roberts in Denver. One staff member at each paper is now being tasked with writing a handful of blog posts each day and editing and processing blog posts by other staffers and freelancers. Tobias says the focus on daily content is part of a transition "from a print product to a web platform with a print piece."

Continue ReadingChief Operating Officer Talks About How VVM’s Papers Are Faring

In the seventeenth installment of this year's "How I Got That Story" series, Westword staff writer Alan Prendergast talks to Angelica Herrera about his stories on local district attorney Carol Chambers. The two articles, which earned the veteran alt-weekly writer a first place finish in News Story -- Long Form, specifically examine Chambers' controversial use of Colorado's "habitual offender" statutes, which give prosecutors leeway to seek longer sentences for repeat offenders regardless of the nature of the crimes. In this Q&A, Prendergast discusses the roots of the story, how Chambers reacted, and why alt-weekly writers shouldn't shy away from covering the same ground as the daily. "Sometimes the temptation with weeklies is to shy away from stories that the dailies are already doing," he says. "But, often those stories in the dailies are poorly covered, or there are just a lot of questions left unanswered."

Continue ReadingHow I Got That Story: Alan Prendergast

Columbia Journalism Review assistant editor Jane Kim claims in a blog post that "one thing that was sorely lacking from the past two weeks of convention spotlighting was good alt weekly coverage." She then uses a couple of blog features from convention host-city papers Westword and City Pages to prove the "sad results" of "consolidation of the alt weeklies under VVM." In the comments section, Westword editor Patricia Calhoun argues that staff cartoonist Kenny Be, whose "Delegating Denver" series provided grist for Kim's critique, is "the town's best political columnist," adding that "to quote lines without the context of the artwork is hardly fair" when criticizing a cartoon. AAN executive director Richard Karpel, meanwhile, points out that both papers broke significant convention-related news prior to the conventions, and that several dozen other alt-weeklies had folks on the ground during the confabs. "It seems clear from the tone of this piece that Kim went in with a set of preconceived ideas -- the all-too-easy meme that corporate ownership leads to homogenization -- and wasn't going to let the facts get in her way at 4:42 p.m. on a Friday," City Pages' editor-in-chief Kevin Hoffman adds. Lastly, Village Voice Media executive associate editor Andy Van De Voorde takes Kim to task for "focusing on 'the various shades of Banana Republic grey' worn by the Palins" in her own work during the conventions, while City Pages reporters were arrested, roughed up, and pepper-sprayed as "a direct result of their decision to actually go out and cover news."

Continue ReadingCritic Pans Alt-Weekly Convention Coverage; Alts Fight Back

Former Rocky Mountain Chronicle and Colorado Springs Independent editor Vanessa Martinez was eating lunch on Monday in Denver when a thief made off with her bag, which included cash, credit cards and her ID, which she needed to get into DNC events. After she called her credit card company and found out the guy was already on a spending spree nearby, she headed to the Virgin Megastore where he'd just bought some items. Before she got there, though, she ran into him on the street. "The poor guy couldn't have seen it coming," Westword's Joel Warner writes. "Biff! Bam! Kapow! Martinez punched him in the face, walloped him with his own shopping bag and tore at his shirt. He pulled out her stolen credit cards in surrender, but that didn't stop the fury." The pickpocket was taken into custody, and Martinez got her stuff back shortly after the scuffle. In other DNC-related news, check out this blog post, in which Westword writer Jason Sheehan's takes New York Post columnist Cindy Adams to task for her boneheaded comments about Denver.

Continue ReadingFormer Alt-Weekly Editor Turns into Crime-Fighting Vigilante

Two AAN members placed in the overall General Excellence categories: Louisiana's Independent Weekly finished second in the Class I division and OC Weekly finished third in the Class III division. In addition, both Riverfront Times (Special Sections and Arts and Entertainment) and Westword (Consumer Affairs and Food and Nutrition) were finalists in two story-topic categories. More than 1,100 entries were submitted to the annual contest administered by the Missouri School of Journalism, which calls it "the oldest and best-known feature writing and editing competition in American newspapering."

Continue ReadingAlt-Weeklies Honored in Missouri Lifestyle Journalism Awards

For the past 56 weeks, staff cartoonist Kenny Be has studied the 56 delegations headed to Denver for the Democratic National Convention, and shared his research results in a weekly cartoon called "Delegating Denver." With the convention just around the corner (Aug. 25-28), the cartoons are now collected in a single slideshow on Westword's site. Editor Patricia Calhoun says AAN-member papers are free to excerpt parts of the cartoon in print or link to it online, accompanied by their own commentary. In addition, the Sacramento News & Review has made available free of charge to AAN members a piece from Tom Hayden on what to expect from Denver, and the significance of it all for the future of the country. For more details on that piece, which is available today, email Cosmo Garvin at cosmog (at)

Continue ReadingWestword Cartoonist Unveils ’56 Faces of the Democratic Convention’

The Society of Professional Journalists has named Westword staff writer Alan Prendergast a 2007 Sigma Delta Chi Award winner in the feature writing category (under 100,000 circulation) for "The Caged Life," a story about life in solitary confinement. The awards will be presented July 11 during the annual banquet at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Continue ReadingWestword Wins SPJ Sigma Delta Chi Award

AAN members are once again well-represented in the list of finalists for this year's James Beard Foundation Journalism Awards. Robb Walsh of the Houston Press and SF Weekly's Eliza Strickland are both nominated in the Newspaper Feature Writing About Restaurants and/or Chefs category, while Westword's Jason Sheehan is nominated in the Restaurant Reviews category. Winners will be announced June 8 at a reception in New York. The awards recognize and honor excellence and achievement in the culinary arts.

Continue ReadingThree Alt-Weekly Writers Up for James Beard Awards