This Week in San Diego, AAN Members to Focus on What’s Next

With growing competition from large media conglomerates, and with the Internet rapidly reshaping markets and media-consumption habits, alternative newspapers know they must change in order to remain competitive. But how? What’s next in alt-weekly publishing?

When AAN’s annual convention gets underway on Thursday, June 16, at the Westin Horton Plaza hotel in San Diego, programming will be geared toward addressing such questions.

This year’s business stream features seminars about building a productive workforce and assembling an effective employee handbook, among other management-specific topics. But in keeping with the convention’s overarching theme, other seminars will address issues that focus on the bigger picture.

Tony Perkins’ presentation, for instance, titled “Blogs, RSS, Wikis, and Social Networks: How Alternative Weeklies Can Benefit from New Models of Online Communication”; and David Carr’s presentation, titled “What the Faux? A Survey of Faux Alts and Commuter Dailies,” will help management, production and editorial staffers take a longer view of their papers’ role in a rapidly evolving media marketplace.

Another seminar, “What Should Alternative Newsweeklies Look Like? Creating a Visual Journalism for the Multimedia Age,” presented by former Village Voice and Real Simple design director Robert Newman, will attempt to get both editorial and design staffers thinking about how to develop a new visual template based on the way today’s readers absorb information.

Editorial programming also includes a panel of AAN editors demonstrating some of their recent experiments in deconstructing the alt-weekly template, an idea-breeding townhall meeting on competing with faux-alts (which publishers will also attend) and a presentation encouraging alt-weeklies to increase their videogame coverage.

Also stressing a forward-thinking outlook will be David Carson’s presentation, “What’s Next in Typography.” Other design and production seminars will focus on tips and tricks, workflow and new technology.

The rise of Craigslist has affected alt-weekly classified departments, and Peter Zollman will discuss how they can continue to compete in the online world. Classified managers will also participate in moderated break-out sessions and a day-long workshop about product development and marketing.

Classified and retail sales managers will hear from Dr. Rob Tucker of the Leadership Research Institute, who will talk about how successful individuals and organizations change along with their environment. Additional retail programming will examine digital advertising trends, promotional ideas and the future of market research.

Mike Davis will speak at Saturday’s First Amendment Lunch. A social commentator and urban theorist best known for his investigations of class structures in his native Southern California, he’s written for a number of publications, including L.A. Weekly and The Nation, where he’s a contributing editor.

On Friday, winners of the 2005 AltWeekly Awards will be announced at an awards lunch hosted by Dan Savage, editor of Seattle’s The Stranger and writer of Savage Love, the ubiquitous sex advice column. Savage has indicated that he will not repeat the boozing match that famously marked the 2002 awards luncheon, but attendees would be well advised to expect surprises.

For AAN members with no such plans for sobriety, the convention will offer plenty of chances to temper work with play. On Thursday evening, a rooftop cocktail-and-heavy hors d’oeuvres reception will be held at the nearby Westgate Hotel on a rooftop overlooking the Gaslamp Quarter. On Friday evening, buses will take AAN members to the Aerospace Museum in Balboa Park for dinner. And on Saturday evening in Mexico, a convention-capping reception will be held at the Tijuana Cultural Center, where finger foods and entertainment will tide everyone over until it’s time to venture through town in search of dinner and more drinks (or just more drinks).

AAN Convention Daily newsletters, to be distributed on Friday and Saturday mornings, will document the occasion with eight pages of news, trivialities and photos. The Friday edition will include statements from AAN board candidates, and the Saturday edition will have a list of the winners of the 2005 AltWeekly Awards. (Additional coverage will be posted to the Web site during and after the convention.)

Four 2004 fellows from the Academy for Alternative Journalism will contribute to the newsletter: Jennifer Derilo of San Diego; Ryan L. Nave of St. Louis, Mo.; Mosi Secret of Houston, Texas; and Ayana Taylor of Jackson Miss. Joining them will be Convention Daily veteran Wells Dunbar, an intern for the Austin Chronicle; and Tommy Purvis, a recent graduate of California State University, Fullerton, who majored in print journalism and political science.

Paul Stroede of Madison, Wis., will be sacrificing sleep again this year to lend his design skills, while AAN Editor Ruth Hammond will be directing the staff and editing the newsletter from a makeshift office at the Westgate Hotel.