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In this corner of the newspaper world, gathering with our peers each summer is both helpful and therapeutic. We have our Association of Alternative Newsweeklies national conventions in lush, cool garden spots such as, uh, Tucson, Ariz., which hosted nearly 300 publishers, editors, art directors, advertising salespeople and Internet techies last weekend.

After three days of idea-sharing, brainstorming and some revelry (though it's hard to get too rowdy at outdoor parties on humid, 90-degree nights), our contingent returned with lots of possible ways to make the Independent better.

We also came back with some recognition worth sharing.

Rich Tosches, also known to our readers as Ranger Rich, took second place for columns in the AAN national contest. We could argue that he should have won, but we weren't the judges.

Also, the AAN membership elected Indy CEO/General Manager Fran Zankowski as vice president for the next two years. That puts him in line to become AAN president in 2011, so it's a significant honor for Fran as well as the Indy. He had been serving as AAN treasurer, having built a solid reputation during his 20-plus years in the alternative industry.

It means a lot to us, having AAN's vice president on our side, and we look forward to seeing what we all can do together in the coming weeks and months to better serve this community.

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