In three months, the Knoxville Mercury will be two years old. While I believe that’s also the same number of years this project has shaved off my life expectancy, it has nevertheless been a very rewarding effort—it’s not often that an entire community pitches in to help you create a new business.
When we launched the paper in March 2015, I noted that despite our staff’s collective experience in publishing, our “startover” was still a learning experience in how to create a feasible independent news publication in the digital age. And we’re still learning. But along the way, we’ve made an impact with our stories, which has always been our ultimate goal. In this issue, you’ll find a condensed collection of the issues we believe are important to Knoxville, circa 2016.
From our law enforcement agencies’ complicated relations with the African American community to the “slut-shaming” sex education in our schools, from Knox County’s opioid epidemic to its profiteering jail policies, there have been plenty of controversies to cover. But there have also been uniquely Knoxvillian achievements to draw inspiration from, when citizens take it upon themselves to make the Knoxville area a better place to live in—whether it’s by supporting immigrant-owned businesses or leading the fight against sex trafficking or aiding survivors of a cataclysmic fire.
Next year, we believe it will be especially vital to support these productive endeavors. There will be a lot to worry about in 2017, which may very well be a year of trickle-down chaos, as institutions and democratic ideals are upturned. But locally, we must continue to work toward a Knoxville that is inclusive, just, and humane.
In our first issue of the year, we will be launching a new initiative: Press Forward.
We took the name from our own fundraising effort to create the Mercury because it expresses what we hope to accomplish with this series of stories: pushing ahead despite the odds. In every edition of 2017, we will put our spotlight on someone who is pursuing their vision for a better Knoxville and East Tennessee—people who are making an impact. Their projects aren’t motivated so much by politics as they are by a common-sense desire to improve the quality of life here for everyone, one community at a time. The areas we’ll be looking at include humanitarian, education, arts and culture, health, business, and food issues.
If some these initiatives spark your interest, we’ll tell you how to get involved. If you know of other projects that deserve attention, we’ll examine them. If you have ideas for new efforts to get off the ground, we’ll help spread the word.
Let’s work together to make sure Knoxville continues to progress toward an ideal we can all get behind: a place where good ideas still make sense.
We’ll continue to take aim at bad ideas, too, in our news coverage. But with our Press Forward section, we hope to create a rallying point for those who want to find ways to make a difference or who just need a regular dose of optimism.
To get Press Forward off the ground—along with several other plans—we’ll be taking the next two weeks off.
We’re still just a handful of people trying to put out a well-reported, trustworthy newsweekly that covers a variety of subjects—which is usually such an all-consuming effort that it doesn’t leave us with much time and energy to tackle other projects. After racing against the clock to publish the paper each week, we often find ourselves saying, “If only we had more time to…” So, we’re going to give ourselves that time.
Starting in January, we will publish the print edition on a biweekly schedule through the winter months. Our online edition will continue to have daily and weekly updates—news stories, blog posts, calendar events. While this will lessen our street presence, it will allow us to do a better job at everything else we need to accomplish.
We’ve got a long to-do list, from revamping the paper’s lineup to developing new media platforms, from figuring out ways to market our services to finding new revenue streams. (Also, I have a ton of emails to reply to—sorry, everyone.) Finally getting these things done will help us succeed and continue to serve our readers.
Of course, there are a couple projects in town that we’re always eager to direct people to—especially those who want to help: the Mercury and its governing body, the Knoxville History Project, an educational 501(c)(3) nonprofit directed by Jack Neely.
I would argue that now, more than ever, there’s a dire need for smart, in-depth reporting on local issues. As the Facebook era has revealed, truth is hard to find these days because it doesn’t pay as well as lies. Buck the trend by making a donation (or two).
• Tax-deductible donations can be made to the Knoxville History Project, which will in turn take out a weekly full-page ad in the Mercury to help support it. Go to: knoxvillehistoryproject.org.
• Direct, non-tax-deductible donations to the Mercury can be made at our online store: store.knoxmercury.com.
• Or, better yet, take out an ad: firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you next year!
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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