Big Party Planned for Big Easy

NPR commentator Andrei Codrescu added to the program.

may 23, 2001  11:51 am
Big Party Planned for Big Easy
Jan Massey
It’s a good thing the AAN convention seminars are starting an hour later this year. “The attendees are going to be up late,” says Margo DuBos, publisher of host paper Gambit Weekly.

With good reason! DuBos and the Gambit staff have put together an outstanding entertainment lineup, including the Treme Brass Band to lead the delegates’ second line to the Storyville District, and Afro-Caribbean narrator Junkaroo for the Friday night trip across the river to Mardi Gras World. That evening’s entertainment also includes the Johnson Extension Gospel Choir to greet delegates, the Kumbuka masked dancers who will weave through the audience, the Night Crawlers, a funky brass jazz band, and the Mardi Gras Indians.

And as if that’s not enough, NPR commentator and Gambit Weekly columnist Andrei Codrescu has been added to the program. Codrescu will talk about “Poetry in the Newspaper: Where Is It and What Is It?” on Saturday, July 14 from 10 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.

As of the May 18 deadline for early discounted registration, 320 alternative-press types had signed up to party down in the Big Easy July 11 through 14.

“It’s extremely difficult to compare this year’s registration with last year’s,” says Debra Silvestrin, AAN operations and special projects director. “Last year’s figures are based upon a later registration deadline and an earlier convention.”

That said, AAN Executive Director Richard Karpel says his gut feeling is that total paid registration will be about 10% below last year’s record of 650. That would put attendance at the same level as the 1999 confab in Memphis, he says.

Of AAN’s 118 member papers, 58 have registered thus far, with the largest contingent fielded by the Chicago Reader, who are bringing 17 people. Among non-member papers, Las Vegas Weekly is setting the pace with six registrants, but the highest ratio of registrants-to-resources belongs to Clarksville, Tennessee’s Our City, which is sending five of its 13 full-time employees.

"There're ways to improve these papers that you only get working with your sister papers," says Our City Publisher Jan Massey. "We don't have a manual on how to be an alternative newspaper. We very much stand alone, and the only support or validation my people get is … from other people" in the alternative news industry.

The opportunity for her editor to talk with nationally recognized writers, or for the advertising manager to learn the latest on the burgeoning alternative weekly classified market, is worth the $5,000 Massey is spending to take four with her, she says. In addition to her editor and classified manager, Massey is taking her creative director and her assistant.

"That's why I go, because I don't have anyone that has helped me," she says. It's not easy to get time from other publishers outside the conventions, as well. "Most of these publishers are very, very busy, I mean, we're cutting a new groove."

Seth Wharton, a business writer and freelance reporter based in Knoxville, Tenn., also contributed to this story.