Village Voice Gets Into AAN Despite Protest p. 16

By: TONY CASE NEW YORK CITY'S Village Voice was voted into the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies at the group's annual convention last week, despite protests by the venerable weekly's crosstown competitor, the New York Press.
The membership scuffle was the latest shot in a war between the two weeklies that intensified last April when the Voice copied the Press ? and most other alternative weeklies ? by switching to free distribution.
AAN's six-member admissions committee unanimously recommended that the Voice be brought into the fold, and member papers handily approved its application. This, even though the 40-year-old paper had joined and dropped out of AAN twice before and, by most accounts, wasn't active in the organization when it was a member.
In fact, the Voice had but one representative, its Web maven, at this year's gathering, while other big alternatives such as the Chicago Reader and San Francisco Bay Guardian ? and even much-smaller ones like the Nashville Scene and Austin Chronicle ? sent as many as a dozen people.
Even the association's admissions panel, in its recommendation, acknowledged the Voice's past lack of interest."Maybe the third time's the charm," it wrote, adding, "We encourage the powers that be at the Voice to become full and participating members of the organization."
One committee member said the paper's high
profile lended the alternative press "an increased level of explainability."
New York Press distributed a written appeal at the convention, urging members to reject the Voice's bid.
Russ Smith, editor and founder of the Press ? who did not show for the convention but sent three of his top people ? charged in his two-page diatribe that the Voice "has done nothing to encourage. There's also the leaner-meaner factor. Noting that the Dallas Morning News has 200 reporters, compared with the Observer's eight, she insisted, "We are at an enormous advantage. We have to feed the monster every week.
"By the time story ideas are filtered through the system at the Morning News, ours are in the paper," she explained. "And we're more energetic about getting the stories."
Lynn Packer, a freelancer for Salt Lake's Private Eye Weekly, seconded that the weeklies aren't hampered by the same constraints as the dailies, with their relationships with the power brokers and space limitations.
What holds alternative journalists back, he maintained, is a lack of newsroom resources. This, despite their growing revenues.
Packer said that his paper "had the guts to take on the mayor when the mainstream press wouldn't ? but the flip side of that is we don't have the money to do it right."
In the course of investigating a money-laundering scheme, Packer had to get information about a secret Swiss bank account. He financed the trip himself.
"It's unfortunate when reporters have to subsidize their own stories," he said. "But, if the alternative paper had enough money to send you to Switzerland, it would probably have a lot of fat-cat friends and wouldn't do the story to begin with."
Editor & Publisher n June 15, 1996


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