This past week, members of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia gathered in Boston for seminars, awards and fellowship.
It had been a rough stretch for the association, which has lost dozens of members since Facebook and Google stripped much of our ad revenue amid the general decline of newspapers. Even before the pandemic, the future of our little corner of the media looked uncertain.
We’ve benefited these last two years under the leadership of President John Heaston, publisher of the Reader in Omaha, who forged alliances with the Black and Latinx press in a quest to get some recognition from the agencies and nonprofits that fund journalism. Until now, our groups had been perennially shut out of the money shower from organizations like the Knight Foundation and Google News Initiative. No more. And the organization ended its bylaws to include Black, Latino and LGBTQ+ media orgs, which had previously been defined as “niche publications,” which in the alternative media universe, we reckoned, amounts to the same thing.
Heaston, in his address to the member papers this year, noted that our new funding partners considered the alts “the future of local news,” because of our connection to our communities, our outstanding journalism and our scrappiness, which is how so many of us managed to survive the pandemic after all our advertisers dropped out.
Every last one of us was unsure if we would be here this year.
Triad City Beat enjoyed a wonderful annual conference. Our newest staff writer Nicole Zelniker absorbed enough history and technique to appreciate our style of journalism. Managing Editor Sayaka Matsuoka was named to the AAN Board as Free Speech Chair, recognition of her hard work and bright future. And we took Third Place in one of the biggest award categories: Right-Wing Extremism Coverage, for this 2020 article by Jordan Green about American white supremacists who fought in a civil war in the Ukraine.
But we don’t do this for awards, and we don’t do this for board seats or fancy accommodations in a downtown hotel. We’re here for our communities. And that’s why we’re still here.