Alternative Journalism Writers Workshop 2008

For the past several years, AAN has hosted a workshop designed for alternative newsweekly writers and reporters. Instructors address alternative approaches to news and arts coverage and provide training in investigative and narrative techniques. The workshop is held at the Medill School of Journalism on the Northwestern University campus in Evanston, Ill.

The 2008 workshop will take place Aug. 15-16 in conjunction with the final weekend of the Academy for Alternative Journalism.

The cut-off date to make reservations at the Hotel Orrington has passed; however, they may still have rooms available. Please call (888) 677-4648 for reservations. Let them know that you are with the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies and ask for the best rate available.

Room Share
If you would like to share a hotel room with another attendee to cut expenses, please contact Debra Silvestrin at debras (at) and we will do our best to pair you up with a same-sex roommate.

Friday, Aug. 15
3 to 3:15 pm
Welcome and Introduction
Patricia Calhoun, Westword

3:15 to 4:15 pm
How to Succeed in 21st Century Journalism by Really Trying
In 2000, film student Gustavo Arellano wrote a mock angry letter to the Orange County Weekly. Seven years later, he's working at the paper, he has a nationally syndicated column called ¡Ask a Mexican!, has published two books, won multiple journalism awards and now has a television deal -- and he wants all of you to do the same thing! In this session, Gustavo will tell his story and give step-by-step instructions on how to transform yourself from a cub reporter to a multimedia loco.
Speaker: Gustavo Arellano, ¡Ask a Mexican!

4:30 to 5:15 pm
Speed Bitching
Speed dating for writers: Share war stories with your peers for a few minutes, then move on to a fresh set of ears. Nothing promotes bonding like a little kvetching and commiseration.
Host: Julia Goldberg, Santa Fe Reporter

6 to 7 pm
Happy Hour

Saturday, Aug. 16
9:30 to 10:30 am
60 Story Ideas in 60 Minutes
A town-hall meeting for sharing successful story ideas. Everyone should come with a single idea for a story that can be parsed in a minute or less.
Moderator: Ken Edelstein, Creative Loafing (Atlanta)

10:45 to 11:45 am
The Steps to a Story
Using case studies, Patricia Calhoun will take us step-by-step through the reporting process, demonstrating how to navigate the roadblocks that make it difficult for reporters to take a vague subject and turn it into a compelling story.
Speaker: Patricia Calhoun, Westword

Noon to 1 pm
Visual Journalism: Beyond the Narrative
Learn how to plan and execute stories that can be better told with visuals. Robb Montgomery will show us how to communicate with art and articulate concepts and themes to bring out the best in both the words and images, no matter what the platform.
Speaker: Robb Montgomery, Visual Editors

1:15 to 3 pm
Working Lunch: Personal Writing Critiques
Every writer who registers for the conference by Friday, Aug. 1, will have an opportunity to have one of their stories critiqued by experienced alt-weekly editors and peers. The critiques will be conveyed in small-group settings, with several writers and at least one editor assigned to each group.

3:15 to 4:15 pm
Arts Writing: Advice From AAN Greats
AAN member papers are chock-full of renowned writers and critics of the arts. We went to some of these greats, and asked them the following question: What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to your fellow AAN writers? Here’s what they had to say.
Speaker: Jimmy Boegle, Tucson Weekly

4:30 to 5:30 pm
Telling Real Stories: Why It Matters
Donna Ladd draws on her experiences investigating and then writing compelling narratives about old Klan cold cases and new mayors gone amok to show how rich, detailed stories can do much more than lead to federal indictments -- they can improve our communities, inspire change and even enrich our own everyday lives.
Speaker: Donna Ladd, Jackson Free Press

7 to 10 pm
Dinner at the Prairie Moon
Hosted by AAN

Gustavo Arellano
is a staff writer with OC Weekly, an alternative newspaper in Orange County, Calif., a contributing editor to the Los Angeles Times Op/Ed pages, and frequent guest on Public Radio International's Weekend America. He writes "¡Ask a Mexican!,®" a nationally syndicated column in which he answers any and all questions about America's spiciest and largest minority. The column has a weekly circulation of over 2 million in 32 newspapers across the United States, won the 2006 AltWeekly Award for Best Column, and was published in book form by Scribner Press in May 2007. Arellano has been the subject of press coverage in the Los Angeles Times, Houston Chronicle, Reuters, Mexico City's El Universal newspaper, The Today Show, Hannity & Colmes, Nightline, The New York Times, Good Morning America, Utne and The Colbert Report. Gustavo was a finalist for the 2005 Maggie Award's Best Public Service Series or Article category for his work on the Catholic Diocese of Orange sex-abuse scandal, a topic for which he was the recipient of the Lilly Scholarship in Religion from the Religion Newswriters Association. Gustavo is also the recipient of the Los Angeles Press Club's 2007 President's Award and an Impacto Award from the National Hispanic Media Coalition. Gustavo lives in Orange County and is the proud son of two Mexican immigrants, one whom was illegal.

Jimmy Boegle is the editor of Tucson Weekly. He previously was the news editor at Las Vegas CityLife, and before that, he was the editor of the Reno News & Review. Since moving to Tucson, he has grown to deeply appreciate the saguaro cactus, but in a completely platonic way.

Patricia Calhoun is the editor of Westword in Denver, Colorado. She has served on the AAN board of directors in a number of different capacities, including president. At present, she is serving as the association's editorial committee chair.

Ken Edelstein has served as Creative Loafing's editor since September 2000 and was CL's managing editor before that. Under his leadership, Creative Loafing has won more than 30 regional and national awards and has become Georgia's second most well-read publication. Before joining Creative Loafing he was an editor, reporter and Atlanta bureau chief at the Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer, where he won awards for business, political and investigative reporting.

Julia Goldberg has been the editor of the award-winning Santa Fe Reporter since December 2000, and writes a semi-regular blog at:, which is named after a voter registration project she ran in 2004. Julia also serves on AAN's editorial, diversity and membership committees.

Donna Ladd is co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Jackson Free Press, Mississippi's only alternative newspaper. She has written for many magazines, websites and alternative newspapers, including The Village Voice, and has won multiple awards for feature writing, columns and investigative reporting. In the last two years, her team's work resulted in indictments against former Klansman James Ford Seale and current Jackson Mayor Frank Melton. She is the diversity chair for AAN's board of directors.

Robb Montgomery is the CEO of Visual Editors and principal in Robb Montgomery Consulting. He has worked as a visual editor for the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune and partners with media groups and journalism associations in more than 16 countries to design training curriculum for video journalism, newspaper design and multimedia reporting.