Why the Admissions Process Works

One of my favorite parts of every AAN convention is the drama surrounding the admissions process. Beginning with the admissions committee meeting on Wednesday and their always-entertaining report in the daily convention newsletter on Friday, and ending with the vote at the annual meeting, the process defines the dramatic arc of the conference.

Of course, it wouldn’t be dramatic unless people cared about it and it’s quite obvious that the publishers who apply for AAN membership care very much about whether they get in. In fact, it has always amazed me how much they care. After all, as a practical matter, non-members can enjoy many of the benefits of AAN membership. They can attend the convention and other AAN conferences; they can subscribe to the newsletter and visit the Web site; and they benefit from our marketing, PR and government relations work by default.

But those things are not what the applicants crave. We know that because some of them don’t take advantage of those benefits even after they are admitted.

They covet more elusive rewards like peer approval and critical acceptance. And for that we can thank the folks who serve on the admissions committee, because without their work those intangibles would have no meaning.

It’s obvious from talking to the members of the committee and reading their extensive comments that they take their assignment very seriously. In essence, their job is to define the meaning of “alternative newsweekly”; it’s a venture that’s fraught with the potential for snobbery and arrogance. But the committee’s integrity is transparent and obviates those concerns. You may not agree with their outcome, but you can tell they read the papers thoroughly and seriously struggle with the issues they’re forced to deal with. And that’s why it matters so much to so many papers whether they get invited to join the rest of the group.

I try to maintain a distance from the process, so I don’t read the applying papers or take a position on whether they should be admitted. As a result, I tend to focus on the personal side of the equation. I root for people like Tim Keck and Rob Crocker of the Portland Mercury; Jeff Lawrence of the Weekly Dig; Tommy Russo of Maui Time Weekly; Jan Massey of Our City; and Berl Schwartz of City Pulse because I like them and think they would add intelligence and decency to the association. But I recognize that the admissions process, despite often excluding good people, is at the heart of what makes this a great organization.


Would you believe it if I told you that last month during the Alternative Newsweekly Awards lunch Albie Del Favero removed his pants, Laurie Ochoa slipped off her shirt and wedding rings and Michael Tisserand slurped a shot of Jim Beam from his own smelly sneaker?

In a brilliant subversion of the chicken-circuit awards ceremony, MC Dan Savage killed us with 90 minutes of comic genius and inspired lunacy that those who attended aren’t likely to soon forget.

Freeballin’. Mike Albie. “Smells like hippie” … Dan left us with dozens of astonishingly funny moments. He is a talented and generous man and on behalf of everyone who was there I want to thank him for what was surely the most memorable event ever held at an AAN convention.


I also want to thank Adam Ebbin for his three years of dedicated service to AAN. Adam, whose last day at AAN was June 18, was an outstanding employee and representative of the association, and we’ll miss him.

Richard Karpel is executive director of AAN.