Friday, June 15, 2007

Alternative universe

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies Convention, hosted by Willamette Week. The Convention has drawn staff of alternative weekly papers from all over the country.

I came in to the Convention mostly to observe and to find out about the allure of working for these sorts of papers as opposed to dailies, like the Oregonian. What I found was a mix of people who do the work because they're passionate about it (it sure as hell isn't for the money--from what they're saying, these people are paid bupkis).

The first thing I did was meander through the trade show part of the Convention. In attendance were all manner of cartoonists, advice columnists, computer geeks and even free margaritas from one of the vendors (funny that I can't remember which one, eh?). Even Toyota was there--letting alt weekly peeps scurry about Portland in one of their hybrids. Given the construction situation downtown, I found that to be pretty damn brave.

I also attended a couple of forums. The most meaningful for me was an editorial forum on Portland and Oregon--mostly about why our state and its people are generally on the edge of exceptionally cool and interesting public policy. Erik Sten was there (I took it upon myself to make an introduction--I'd never actually met him before) as well as Hank Stern, the News Editor for Willy Week. Also on the panel were George Eighmey, former state legislator and director of Compassion & Choices in Oregon and Madeline Martinez is the Executive Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

I also managed to make it in for the last 30 minutes of a forum on restaurant reviews/critiques, which I thought would be boring. But the discussion wound around to a discussion of how blogs have effected the work of the critics--and a more general discussion ensued about blogs in general. That turned out to be rather fascinating--the panelists seemed to disagree about the importance of blogs and if bloggers mattered to the food critic world. Interesting stuff.

Unfortunately I'm a little crunched for time today--so I can't go into more detail yet. In fact I'm out of here for the next couple of days. I don't think I'll have computer/internet access. And TJ tells me he's going to be away as well. So LO may have a couple of days without new stuff.