The folks at The Knoxville Mercury, the alternative weekly newspaper that will be the successor to Metro Pulse, are getting settled in to their office space in The Walnut Building.
Looking at a mid-March launch, they now have office furniture and Internet service. Their art director, Tricia Bateman, is working on a logo for the paper, and some of their founding writers and editors are busy cranking out Facebook posts and blog posts. (Click here. And here.) They’ve hired a sales staff. And editor Coury Turczyn is sifting through resumes and applications for a staff writer and various freelance help. They are working on their editorial calendar for the first year.
Last month, in the depths of winter, they had a jaunty little fundraiser at The Standard in downtown Knoxville attended by about 100 folks. At $100 per head, well, you do the math. They were quite satisfied with the result. Alan was out of town, but I dropped by just to see who else would be there. Plus, when I heard the food was by Knox Mason, well, there really wasn’t any question about my going. I love that place.
Music, too, was by one of my favorite local bands, Kukuly and the Gypsy Fuego.
So, as you may have heard, The Knoxville Mercury has an unusual business model. It will be a for-profit enterprise that is owned by a non-profit entity called The Knoxville History Project. Knox Heritage is the fiscal agent for the time being of The Knoxville History Project. Jack Neely, the popular local historian and Metro Pulse veteran, is the executive director of The Knoxville History Project.
At the event at The Standard, Neely took the microphone for a few minutes. “The Standard is kind of a metaphor for Metro Pulse,” Neely said, referring to the formerly dilapidated storefront on Jackson Avenue that has been transformed by developer David Dewhirst into a lovely new event space. “I hope we can make something as extraordinary out of wreckage.”
Neely said this is “the first time since the Civil War that one entity has controlled almost all the (print) media in Knoxville.” Neely said the community needs another voice. “There’s a lot more to this city than a lot of people will admit to,” he said.
As a former reporter and editor in this community and as someone whose company represented the News Sentinel for a decade or so, I often get asked what I think are the chances for success for The Knoxville Mercury. Here’s the honest answer to that. I wish them well. As a reader, as a public relations person who often “pitches” stories to journalists, and as someone who places advertising, I really want them to succeed because it will provide more options on all those fronts. Plus, I believe that competition makes everyone better.
But it’s going to be an uphill battle. Although the folks involved constantly refer to the fact that Metro Pulse was “profitable” when it was owned by the E.W. Scripps Company, which also owned the News Sentinel, the fact is that it was only barely profitable. And the News Sentinel absorbed many of the overhead expenses like human resources, accounting and payroll. It’s hard for me to believe that someone without the expertise and experience of those at E.W. Scripps and the News Sentinel could make a go of it if they could not.
But I hope they can. And, if passion counts for anything, it just might be possible.