Warning: what you're about to read is an unabashedly self-congratulatory bit of reportage. We're so damned proud of ourselves that we're risking injury with our over-enthusiastic back-patting and high-fiving. Enter at your own risk.
At a Hilton located on a triangular wedge of earth smack dab between the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers in Pittsburgh last weekend, San Diego CityBeat was voted in to a rather exclusive club of newspapers known as the Association for Alternative Newsweeklies (AAN).
I know, that's going to amount to a heapin' helping of beans to you, but it was surely important to us, and I'll tell you why: AAN is a trade organization in the utilitarian sense-it provides legal assistance to its members, plans annual and regional conventions, doles out annual awards for excellence in journalism and what not-but it also serves as a conduit for community among the alternative press, and that's a less tangible, perhaps more important, thing.
At the simplest level, we're just glad to be allowed in the club that includes such venerable and important publications as the Village Voice, the Boston Phoenix, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, the L.A. Weekly, the Texas Observer and the Chicago Reader.
Since those trailblazers hit the scene, similar weeklies have sprouted across the country-mostly in large metropolitan areas but also some in more rural regions and smaller college towns-and provided their citizens with sharp, edgy, progressive journalism about politics, important social issues and the arts. Residents of cities like Portland (Willamette Week), Nashville (Nashville Scene), New Orleans (Gambit Weekly), Washington D.C. (Washington City Paper) and Santa Fe (Santa Fe Reporter) have been particularly fortunate to have top-notch alternative papers over the years.
The company that owns CityBeat, the young but fast-growing Southland Publishing, owns two other papers that were admitted to AAN in recent years-the Ventura County Reporter (2000) and the Pasadena Weekly (2001). Southland, in fact, is launching two new papers this week, Los Angeles CityBeat (serving downtown, West L.A., Hollywood and Santa Monica) and Los Angeles ValleyBeat (serving the San Fernando Valley).
It's not terribly easy to get into AAN, prompting some to joke that it's the only trade organization in the U.S. that doesn't want any new members. This year 13 papers applied for membership, and seven were admitted-and that was considered a deluge of new members. Last year, just one applicant was accepted. CityBeat was received rather enthusiastically, drawing a 9-2 vote of the admissions committee, which makes recommendations to the full membership. Only one applying paper fared better, the fine weekly from Halifax, Nova Scotia, The Coast, which received a unanimous 11-0 vote. It was The Coast's first shot at AAN membership in the paper's 10-year history.
The committee was struck particularly by the relatively short time-nine months-it took CityBeat to get where it is. At the risk of obnoxiously tooting our own tuba, I can't stop myself from relaying some of the comments from committee members about us:
* "The staff loves getting down to details, and is doing a lot of heavy-lifting when it comes to quite a few topics. It's usually interesting to read what they've discovered."
* "This paper combines an alternative approach to its subjects with maturity and professionalism. They seem to have a firm handle on everything they cover and the writing and editing quality is top notch."
* "I didn't know San Diego could sound so cool."
All this is to report to you that our peers have given us an emphatic endorsement. In their judgment, we're doing important stories for y'all about politics, social justice, education, music and pop culture, and we're doing it with intelligence, wit and flair.
We're going to bask in the soft glow for a few days and then get back to work. In the weeks and months ahead, we'll begin to focus more on investigating the nooks and crannies of power in San Diego in hopes of affecting positive change. We'll look deeper beneath the news of the day to give San Diegans better perspective on why things happen the way they do. And we'll think farther outside the box and find new ways to deliver stories about life and culture here.
Again, membership in the club shouldn't mean much to you, but it will help us do all the above. Thanks for reading.