The Knoxville Mercury publishes 25,000 copies each week, distributing them every Thursday to over 300 locations in the Knoxville area.
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On Oct. 15, 2014, the 23-year-old newsweekly Metro Pulse was abruptly closed down by its out-of-town corporate owner despite being profitable for the last several years. Community outcry was immediate in both local news outlets and social media, and the message was clear: Knoxville needs and wants a locally owned paper devoted to in-depth journalism. Metro Pulse, credited by many for helping spark positive change in the city’s downtown revival, had won over 20 national journalism awards and over 100 regional awards.
The Knoxville Mercury continues that winning legacy. And its startup was being funded by the Knoxville community.
Not long after being fired, Metro Pulse’s former editors shredded their severance agreements, which included non-compete clauses, and began assembling the team and the financing to publish the Knoxville Mercury. They took a unique route:
First, forming the Knoxville History Project, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization headed by former MP associate editor Jack Neely that will be devoted to exploring, disseminating, and celebrating Knoxville’s unique cultural heritage.
Second, establishing the Knoxville Mercury as a taxable, not-for-profit corporation governed by the KHP as part of its effort to educate the public about Knoxville’s history and culture.
Knoxville may be unique among cities that have lost their daily or weekly papers: It took action. The community rallied to fund a new publication, with over 700 Knoxvillians pulling out their checkbooks to help start the Knoxville Mercury. Meanwhile, professionals from many different fields, from IT to accounting, donated their services to assist the start-up.
The result is a paper that can function editorially independent of a single owner, out-of-town corporation, or investors. It will be a true community publication that is locally owned and controlled.
Although the Knoxville Mercury is a new publication, much of its audience is composed of former Metro Pulse readers—active, engaged Knoxvillians who love their city. These are the people who go out and do things: see shows, dine in restaurants, support local businesses and cultural institutions, help those in need, and get involved in guiding the community toward a better future.
Before launching the new paper, we conducted an online survey through a local company called Survature, with nearly 800 respondents. Here’s what it found:
• 22.4 percent of the respondents had read Metro Pulse for more than 20 years, and another 22.1 percent had read it for 15 to 20 years.
• 52 percent of respondents picked the paper up every week. More than 90 percent read the paper at least once a month.
• Our cover stories, columns, and calendar were the paper’s most popular features, in that order—and by a big margin.
• 93.6 of the respondents are aware of the Mercury.
• 92 percent have completed some college, and almost 40 percent (!) have earned post-graduate degrees. (Our readers are, on average, better educated than we are.)
• Almost 60 percent have a household income between $50,000 and $149,000, well above the local average.
Each issue of the Knoxville Mercury features the city’s most accomplished writers, photographers, and designers tackling a wide range of hyper-local topics:
• In-depth cover stories that bring a fresh perspective to Knoxville’s issues, history, and culture.
• News stories that go beyond daily surface details to let you know what’s truly at stake.
• Profiles of people who are making a difference in our community, big or small.
• Local arts and entertainment coverage that features artists who are genuinely worth your attention, from popular music to classical to dance to visual art.
• Opinion pieces on local issues by writers who share commonsense solutions rather than knee-jerk reactions.
• Personal essays by columnists whose humor and insights are inspiring.
• Locally created comics and crossword puzzles!
Plus, every edition of the Knoxville Mercury is presented with arresting graphic design, illustration, and photography that stands out as the city’s best.
We would like to thank all of our advertisers for their continued support of independent journalism.