Ten Candidates Running for Election to AAN Board of Directors

june 22, 2009  02:48 pm
Elections for several positions on the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies Board of Directors will be held on Saturday, June 27, during the association's annual meeting in Tucson.

There will potentially be ten positions opening on the board. Nine of those seats will be vacated as part of the normal election cycle set forth in the association's bylaws, and eight of them come with two-year terms (the convention chair carries a one-year term). A tenth seat -- Treasurer -- may open as a result of Fran Zankowski's bid to run for Vice President. If he is successful, the Treasurer seat will be open for a one-year term.

But the seats being vacated might be different than the seats being filled. If proposed amendments to the association's bylaws are approved by the board, the Organization/Bylaws and Classified Advertising chairs will be eliminated and replaced by Electronic Publishing chair and a fourth At-Large seat.

Most of the members who have announced their candidacies are thus far running unopposed, with the exception being the three candidates who have announced runs for the two potentially open At-Large seats. However, AAN bylaws do not require individuals to declare their intention to run in advance. Any regular members who are interested in seeking a seat on the board can be nominated from the floor at the annual meeting.

Four incumbent board members have announced that they will not be seeking reelection to the board: Editorial chair Patricia Calhoun, At-Large representative Mark Bartel, Organization/Bylaws chair Bill Bleakley and Classified Advertising chair Robby Robbins. The latter two positions may be eliminated as part of the proposed changes to the bylaws.

The candidate for convention chair will announce his candidacy at the annual meeting.

To acquaint AAN members with the candidates and their goals, AAN News asked each of them two questions. Responses from all candidates are below.

Mark Zusman
 
 
Mark Zusman
Editor
Willamette Week
(President)


Why do you want to be on the AAN board?

I joined the board four years ago and am one of its newer members(though I did serve a long time ago). I cannot imagine a time when our papers are in more need of an aggressive trade organization that is using its resources to increase the financial and editorial well-being of its members. I'd like to be part of that effort, along with the remarkably talented people who are on the board.

What are the most important issues AAN faces?

Fundamentally, there are two. The first is the erosion of AAN CAN, which has historically allowed member papers to belong to AAN and enjoy its benefits at a fraction of the true cost of running this organization. Finding revenues to support AAN will be a prime responsibility of this board.

The second is for AAN to be an important resource in helping member papers address the challenges we all face:
  • How can AAN retool its diversity initiative to help our papers themselves diversify?
  • How can AAN help our member papers sort through and make sense of the sheer volume of new technologies, whether they be mobile apps, social media tools or content management systems?
  • How can AAN help our members identify new revenue streams?
  • How can AAN provide papers with the tools they need to sustain and grow the most important part of our franchises -- our quality editorial product?
  • How can AAN do a better job of running conferences that are worthwhile to all papers, big and small?


AAN has already started this journey, with a long-range planning meeting that took place earlier this year. But there is much more to do. For a quarter century, AAN has been a valuable resource for me that has helped us grow our papers. I'd love to return the favor.

Fran Zankoswki
 
 
Fran Zankowski
Chief Executive Officer/General Manager
Colorado Springs Independent
(Vice President)


Why do you want to be on the AAN board?

What are the most important issues that AAN faces?

There are a numerous changes taking place in our industry, and newspapers in general. These changes are also impacting AAN. Our trade organization needs to be as forward-thinking as we are in our own papers. From determining quantity and quality of member services to envisioning the future role of the organization, all of us will be called upon to help AAN wherever and whenever we can. As such, it's a crucial time to be involved and help lead the association.

I also understand the challenges facing our member papers. I've worked for small papers, medium-sized chains, and papers bought out by a large daily newspaper chain, and also consulted for numerous papers; you name it, I've probably lived it. As CEO of the Colorado Springs Independent, a 36,000-circulation alt-weekly in the 83rd-sized market in the country, I confront many of the same issues you do. I believe I am able to represent the interests of our member papers, and facilitate communication within the group.

I attended my first conference in 1988, in Toronto. Since then, I've been to almost all: AAN West, East, Classifieds in Dallas, annual conferences, long-range planning sessions, etc. Many of you also know me as a presenter at these confabs. After nine years on the admissions/ membership committee, a term as chair of the bylaws committee, and 2.5 terms as treasurer, I believe I can bring a wide range of experiences and knowledge to the position of vice president.

AAN has given me an education in publishing that has helped me throughout my career. I cherish the friendships I've made, and appreciate all your past support. I pledge to continue to live up to the trust you have given me, if elected as the association's next vice president.

Kenneth Neill
 
 
Kenneth Neill
Publisher
The Memphis Flyer
(Treasurer)


Why do you want to be on the AAN board?

Good question. I've been on the board now since 1999, for the past two years as Immediate Past President. I was looking forward to "retirement" when President Stephen Leon asked recently if I would consider staying on as Treasurer to fill out the unexpired term of the incumbent, Fran Zankowski, who is seeking the office of Vice President. That term expires in 2010, so I agreed to seek this interim position on the condition that I would NOT under any circumstances seek re-election when the normal two-year term cycle kicks in next year.

What are the most important issues that AAN faces?

Clearly, AAN leadership's overriding concern as we move into Year Two of the Great Recession is maintaining the fiscal health of the organization, and doing all we can to enhance and promote the fiscal health of our individual members. Just as we are all in the process of reinventing ourselves and our papers, the times dictate that a similar process be undertaken by AAN itself. We should be thinking big but managing small, doing whatever it takes to insure a stable financial future for the association in these most unusual times.

Blair Barna
 
 
Blair Barna
Advertising Director
Charleston City Paper
(Advertising)


Why do you want to be on the AAN board?

For the past year I've served out the remainder of former Austin Chronicle advertising director Carol Flagg's vacated seat as Display Advertising Chair. Carol apparently has much bigger feet than I realized, but I've done my best to try to and fill her shoes. I've enjoyed my year on the board and feel I've brought energy, enthusiasm, and some new ideas and perspectives to the table. I'm running for re-election so I can continue working on the initiatives the board is currently challenged with. Plus I'm a glutton for punishment.

What are the most important issues that AAN faces?

The important issues are staying relevant and viable. Our members arguably need the organization more than ever, but AAN, like so many other nonprofit organizations, is faced with financial and organizational challenges. Just like the newspapers it serves, AAN needs to generate multiple revenue streams in order to be able to continue to provide existing and new services to its membership. AAN needs to evolve, yet stay true to its roots at the same time.

Julia Goldberg
 
 
Julia Goldberg
Editor
Santa Fe Reporter
(Editorial)


Why do you want to be on the AAN board?

I currently serve on AAN's editorial, membership and diversity committees, and enjoy the opportunities these committees provide me to work on AAN initiatives at a variety of levels. AAN serves a crucial role to member papers by providing editorial programming and resources, and I believe that bleackonomic times make AAN training, story sharing and web projects even more vital. Serving on the membership committee has forced me to think at both micro and macro levels about the alternative press and the identity of AAN papers in a way that has been eye-opening and rewarding (occasionally even revelatory, albeit in a sublime-horrific way). AAN's diversity intern/project grants, which I have helped evaluate and award for several years, make a large impact for the papers and individuals who receive them, and I think it's important AAN continues to grapple with and move forward with its diversity programming and missions.

Having now served on these committees for several years, I would welcome the opportunity to shape AAN policy and its decision-making at the board level because I understand how some of those decisions play out on the ground. To use a small-town metaphor, it's like I'm a school board member ready to move up to city councilor(except slightly less illiterate and corpulent, hopefully).

And as an editor of one of the association's smaller papers, operating in a relatively tiny market, I know how important and positive a force AAN can be for its smaller members. Finally, at the risk of nauseating whomever is reading this with my earnestness, I promise to bring the full throttle of my workaholic tendencies to the board and work hard to ensure AAN keeps on rocking in the semi-free world.

What are the most important issues AAN faces?

Obviously AAN, like its member papers, faces economic hurdles and the board will need to continue to make tough decisions to ensure its fiscal viability. But that obvious reality makes it even more important AAN undertake bold new initiatives that help strengthen and perhaps redefine the alt.brand, while at the same time assisting and inspiring member papers as they (we) navigate the brave new world of skin-embedded information devices (or whatever is coming round the bend). AAN needs to improve and even expand the editorial programming it provides to its members, not reduce it. It needs to work on its own web presence and use of digital technologies. And I think it needs to more aggressively court participation in its initiatives and committees from more members, particularly new and younger journalists. Finally, it should probably work on a written contingency plan in case of a zombie apocalypse, just to be on the safe side, a task to which I would bring mad skills.

Bill Jensen
 
 
Bill Jensen
Director of New Media
Village Voice Media
(Electronic Publishing)


Why do you want to be on the AAN board?

I believe that I can help papers make the transition from print-centric businesses to multimedia companies. I understand the challenges of the small newsroom, and how resources need to be stretched and modified to deliver a dynamic, daily product online. At VVM, we have added multiple revenue streams apart from just traditional display advertising -- such as our Ad Index platform, text messaging, email blasts, and events -- and AAN needs people on the board who can not only conceive of ideas, but help its papers implement them.

What are the most important issues that AAN faces?

Twenty years ago, we had the daily newspaper, some magazines, radio, and TV to compete with. Today, add to those more than 25.21 billion pages indexed on the web. Plus video games, Twitter, iPhones. How are we going to be heard above the noise and reach our traditional target demographic? By adapting the same coverage of our cities we have been performing for years into new technologies and environments. I truly believe that the print issues of our papers are not going to die. With our lean operating structure and local business relationships, we are in a far better position than the dailies, and we can leverage that position to take each of these papers into the digital age.

Tim Redmond
 
 
Tim Redmond
Executive Editor
San Francisco Bay Guardian
(First Amendment)


Why do you want to be on the AAN board?

I care about this organization. I've put a lot of time into AAN over the years because I believe in alternative newspapers and our collective mission. As First Amendment chair, I have worked, and will continue to work, to keep AAN in the forefront of open-government and free-speech issues. As the executive editor of an independent newspaper, I will continue to push to protect and expand AAN's focus on editorial issues (I was one of the leading advocates for the story-sharing system, have worked on AAN-commissioned stories that many papers have shared, and am actively involved in promoting strong convention programming and other editorial programs) and to protect the interests of independent papers. I am unafraid to be critical of staff (just ask poor Richard) if I think there are important issues or principles at stake, and I am willing to take unpopular stands at the board if I think it will promote AAN's interests -- and help the independents. I have helped mentor many new and applying papers, and will continue in that role. If the members of AAN so desire, I will serve another term.

What are the most important issues that AAN faces?

We're in a deep recession/depression, and we need to rethink the basic revenue model that funds the association, not just now but for the future. I am a big fan of looking for ways to grow AAN -- I'd like to allow online-only publications that meet our standards and fit our mission to join. In tight times, and as we re-invent the organization, we need to figure out what AAN can best to do help alternative papers meet the future. While we're really focused on money and budgets these days, I don't want to lose sight of the fact that AAN exists for a reason, and we need to focus on and find ways to expand our mission.

Margaret Downing
 
 
Margaret Downing
Editor
Houston Press
(At-Large)


Why do you want to be on the AAN board?

I have been very involved with AAN for several years now, serving on the membership committee since 2001, appearing on a panel for restaurant coverage in 2007 and for several years as a guest lecturer teaching narrative story structure to the AAN summer minority journalism workshop. I have always found the annual conventions to be helpful to me (some years more than others) and would like to help contribute to the decision-making going into this organization at a higher level.

I have spent more than 11 years working at the Houston Press as its editor, bringing along a lot of young writers, and I know how important it is that we continue to find good talent and encourage them to invest in this as a career. I would hope that the minority journalism program continues and is able to bring more minority journalists to our member papers. I would like to be on the board because this organization is important in setting standards in our profession -- First Amendment issues are very important to me -- and so that I might help influence some of its decisions about its programs.

What are the most important issues that AAN faces?

I think AAN is at a crucial juncture and much of it has to do with the present national economy, readership patterns and our ability to still do the kind of investigative and narrative journalism that so many of the country's dailies now are abandoning. In the last year alone, two major journalism competitions canceled their contests for this year (John Bartlow Martin and the Missouri Lifestyle). AAN has been at its best when it provides training to young reporters and exposes veteran editors to other thoughts, other ways of doing things. If AAN and its members are to thrive then we need to be open to new ways of operating in reduced circumstances while still maintaining our edge and integrity. I think the membership committee should be looking not only at the print products, but online efforts from applying papers, especially since financial constraints are forcing more print publications to trim their sails on paper, while expanding them online.

In this regard, any exploration of survival skills in this industry will be important to AAN members and then, of course, to AAN itself.

Sally Freeman
 
 
Sally Freeman
Publisher
Boise Weekly
(At-Large)


Why do you want to be on the AAN board?

I would like to join the AAN board and represent a smaller, independently owned paper in a smaller market. I think it is always important to keep a board diversified. I bring my corporate background and expertise as an accountant and systems analyst, both important in the business world in general, but both even more important to our industry to stay competitive and sustainable in the changing nature of our business. And every board would like to be able to say that they have a representative from Idaho.

What are the most important issues that AAN faces?

I think that is imperative that we look beyond the way things have always been done in our industry. Our vision of where we want to be in the future needs to define our priorities rather than focusing on what we have accomplished in the past 30 years. We must do more with fewer resources, stay ahead of the curve with technology and demand excellence in journalism to be competitive. The dynamics of our industry have dramatically changed and I know that I can be a contributing member of a team to ensure that alternative media companies remain positioned to continue to be the vanguard of the publishing industry.

Josh Schuler
 
 
Josh Schuler
Sales & Marketing Director
NUVO
(At-Large)


Why do you want to be on the AAN board?

I believe I am well suited to assist in these pursuits for several reasons. First and foremost, I believe NUVO -- our goals and our concerns -- are representative of the AAN membership. We are a paper steeped in history, servicing a mid-sized market, competing against a strong Gannett weekly, myriad radio outlets and dozens of microsites and hyperlocal products. Our aspirations are high but our resources are limited. We are forced to make the difficult decisions. We are independent, in every way.

But as to me, personally, I have not been in the industry as long as some of my peers. I've spent just three years with NUVO, three years in the industry. But prior to that I spent time with and brokered for multiple Fortune 500 companies. For three of those I ranked among the Top 25 representatives in the U.S. I've had hundreds of hours of sales training which informed my rewrite of our sales training manual and institution of a formal on-boarding process two years ago. I've revamped our marketing department, guiding the creation of a highly successful intern-based promotions team, revising all of our B2B communications and creating a new philosophy as to how we create local partnerships.

But the proof is in results. In our last fiscal year we increased total print readership by 21 percent. We increased readership among the critical 18-34 demographic by 30 percent. And most importantly we ended the year at 103 percent of our revenue quota.

I am running for member-at-large out of respect for the other members and candidates that do in fact have more experience than I. I do believe that experience is the greatest teacher and that those with years and decades of experience should be respected. But I also know well from my experience on the Ruxton Digital Publishers' Advisory Committee that the AAN Board will have the greatest impact if it's voices are diverse while its focus is singular. And I believe I have a unique take on solutions to our shared concerns.

What are the most important issues that AAN faces?

The issues facing each and every one of us are well documented. We are continuing to lose youthful readership to a million niche online options while our loyal reader bases are continuing to age. Our advertisers are struggling to follow the audience to where they believe they spend their time, which more and more frequently means not with a weekly. We recognize the need to innovate in both content and in technology. We know, rightfully, that we house the knowledge and talent to compete and to win. But too often we are confronted with the reality that means will dictate our ability to implement the best technologies and concepts.

I could dig into the daily battles: decimated classifieds, waning readership, web-based competitors, price pressure, declining national revenues, the faux-alts, etc. -- critical issues every one.

But I believe the more pressing question for the AAN Board is to where efforts should be focused. Which of these battles can be won? Which will offer the greatest return on investment? And most importantly, what value can AAN bring to the ground level efforts in each of our cities needed to counteract so many of these trends?

Our greatest strength lies in the minds that make up this association. I want to see AAN make great strides in capitalizing upon it. I want to see more formalized methods of communication and a clear marketplace for ideas. I want to see greater weight given to initiatives related to training and execution for these great ideas. I want to see a strong vetting process for potential vendors and partners. I want the first thought related to every AAN initiative to be, "Will this benefit our members directly?"

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