Meet Clay Duda, Knoxville Mercury Reporter

In Editor's Notes by Coury Turczynleave a COMMENT

claydudaOur inaugural fundraising drive is aimed at bringing back in-depth, investigative reporting to Knoxville. And to do that, the Knoxville Mercury needs to hire its first full-time reporter to join our part-time staffer, Heather Duncan. Fortunately, we have one on the way: Clay Duda, formerly of the Record Searchlight in Redding, Calif.

When we first started actually assembling the paper back in January, we received over 100 applications from around the country for our potential reporting position. The person we were looking for had to meet an almost impossible set of criteria: a background in hard reporting, particularly with investigative techniques; the ability to write well in a magazine-feature style; a willingness to do whatever it takes to get a difficult story; strong abilities in digital and social media; and a youthful sense of adventure because, ah, this endeavor is not exactly a sure thing.

Clay Duda fit the bill. Here’s what he has to say about himself:

My focus is and has been on investigative and enterprise reporting. Over the past five years I’ve covered everything from the institutionalization of the Atlanta housing market to homeless kids bumping around the country on train cars, and volumes in between. I have a strong background in digital journalism, along with photo and video skills.

Since 2013 I’ve been reporting on county government (among many other things) for the Record Searchlight, the daily newspaper in Redding, California. My work here has produced results. An investigation into water loss from local utilities sparked a grand jury investigation and other reforms, and a months-long FOIA battle with the National Forest Service unearthed records that called into question its response to a devastating wildfire. I regularly shoot my own photos and video vignettes.

Before packing the wagon and heading west I served as an associate digital editor with Creative Loafing Atlanta, the city’s long-standing alternative weekly newspaper. It was a great job in terms of coworkers and culture, but the position left me little time to pursue my real passions. So I left. My online work there earned national honors from the Association of Food Journalists, and I tackled some meaningful news and feature stories along the way. I also moonlighted as a staff photographer, regularly shooting editorial photos, concerts, and events.

Back in 2010 I joined up with the Center for Sustainable Journalism, helping the non-profit outfit launch and reporting the heck out of the intersection of children and the law. That gig earned me a spot as a 2012 John Jay/TOW Juvenile Justice Reporting Fellow, and many valuable experiences along the way. I helped the organization launch its first news website out of beta, gave a voice to many kids failed by a complicated and often opaque system, and produced a weekly YouTube video series, just to list a few highlights.

Now we’re ready to fulfill the promises we made to tackle the most difficult stories in town. Clay and his wife Melissa have completed their 2,700-mile drive across America with all their belongings, their dog, and their cat. You can read and see all about their journey in part one and part two on his blog.

Clay is scheduled to start working at the Knoxville Mercury in mid-July, after completing a long-planned tour of Europe with Melissa. Let’s welcome them to Knoxville, and help him report the stories we all want to see.



Editor Coury Turczyn guided Knoxville's alt weekly, Metro Pulse, through two eras, first as managing editor (and later executive editor) from 1992 to 2000, then as editor-in-chief from 2007 to 2014. He's also worked as a Web editor at CNET, the erstwhile G4 cable network, and HGTV.

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