Announcing the Knoxville Mercury League of Supporters

In Editor's Notes by Coury Turczynleave a COMMENT

ind_minds_400Here’s the question I hear wherever I go: “So how’s it going at the Mercury?”

I can understand the curiosity. This journalistic endeavor that we launched with your donations isn’t exactly orthodox. First, it’s printed on paper. That’s weird enough. Second, it’s locally owned. That’s considered somewhat unnatural these days. Third, it’s a not-for-profit corporation governed by a nonprofit educational foundation. And that sounds nearly communistic.

Yes, we chose the more challenging path. But the short answer to this constant query is: We still have a long way to go, but we’re making progress.

As a new business with a small staff, that progress can be slower than we’d like. However, we are connecting with more and more businesses that believe in what we’re doing and understand the value of connecting with you—our community of readers. (In this issue, we welcome our newest partner, Fulin’s Asian Restaurant.) In fact, we owe you a lot. By actively picking up the Knoxville Mercury—rather than, say, barely noticing just another uninspiring section in the daily paper—you are contributing to our success. You’re all smart, savvy, engaged consumers that any business in the area would be lucky to have. It’s our job to make sure potential advertisers understand that fact.

In the meantime, we need to make more than just financial progress—we also need to advance our paper editorially. And that’s where you can help, too.

This week, we are launching the Knoxville Mercury League of Supporters. Yes, not unlike those public radio fundraisers, we are offering our readers the opportunity to join us in keeping independent journalism alive in Knoxville—and earn some swanky perks in the process.

The theme of our inaugural fundraising drive is to bring in-depth, investigative reporting back 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. (Heather’s been breaking stories in her few frantic days in the office each week, but I suspect we’re working her to death.) Fortunately, we have one on the way: Clay Duda, formerly of the Record Searchlight in Redding, Calif., Creative Loafing in Atlanta, and the Center for Sustainable Journalism. 

When we first started assembling this newsweekly 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.

Clay Duda fits the bill.

Clay Duda

Clay Duda

“My focus is and has been on investigative and enterprise reporting,” he wrote in his initial email (subject line: “Please hire me”). “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. … I know what it takes to work in a startup newsroom, and I admire your tenacity and vision for accepting the challenge.”

Now we’re ready to fulfill the promises we made to tackle the most difficult stories in town. By joining our League of Supporters, you will be helping pay the salary of an investigative journalist—which Knoxville most certainly needs.

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 on his blog at

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.

For more information on our League of Supporters—and all the amazing perks you can earn—go to our Join Us page.

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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