To be honest, I was actually looking forward to taking a vacation.
In my last seven years of editing Metro Pulse, I’d managed to not work on only two or three issues. So when I was informed about my impending unemployment last October, my first thought was, Well, that finally happened. And it was soon followed by a subversive glimmer of hope: Now I can finally relax!
But idle repose was not on the immediate agenda. Nor was peace of mind, financial security, or a reliable sense of confidence in what I was doing. That’s because Knoxville wouldn’t take no for an answer. While there were certainly a lot of people who were upset at E.W. Scripps for shutting down Metro Pulse without regard for its legacy—or without even considering the idea that someone might think it’s worth buying—there were others who were immediately asking, “How can we start a new paper?”
We weren’t sure ourselves. Does publishing stories with ink and paper even make sense any more? Do readers want it? Do businesses still need it? Those are questions I can’t really answer for the media industry at large, but in Knoxville the reply was a firm yes. Most everyone we talked to—community leaders, business experts, advertisers, foundation directors, even media types—was emphatic: It can still work here, and we’ll help you do it. That kind of support cannot be ignored, so we went back to work.
A lot of cities have lost daily and weekly papers in the past decade. But I think Knoxville is unique in that its citizens, of all different economic backgrounds, have been willing to actually donate their own money to bring one back. Over 700 Knoxvillians dipped into their bank accounts based purely on their faith that we know what we’re doing, and gave us enough funding to create a new, sustainable weekly paper in the digital age.
No pressure. But I must point out that my former Metro Pulse co-workers, Jack Neely and Matthew Everett, and I have always been introverted, nervous editors, not world-beating entrepreneurs.
How do you start a business? We didn’t know.
How do you run a business? We didn’t know.
How do you start and run a newspaper business in the 21st century? Nobody knows.
So the last five months have been anything but relaxing. We’ve had to ascend a steep learning curve while also trying to form a new business model. Fortunately, Knoxvillians not only gave us their financial support, but also their expertise.
The Knoxville Mercury is a true community effort. A lot of people spent a lot of time guiding us to this first issue, from lawyers to accountants, IT experts to human resources pros, readers to writers. Fortunately, we were also able to find extremely overqualified people to join us in our full-time, non-paying quest against the odds: publisher Charlie Vogel, art director Tricia Bateman, operations director Jerry Collins, and sales executive Scott Hamstead. Enlisting with us on a part-time basis are designers Corey McPherson and Charlie Finch, computer guy David Doyle, and reporter S. Heather Duncan.
We haven’t figured it all out yet. This inaugural edition is a document of where we are right now in our learning process. We have so much more yet to do, so many avenues yet to explore, so many hurdles yet to clear.
But with your support, I think we’re off to a good start. Let’s see where we can go.
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