My Kind of Town

Knoxville: The ultimate inspiration for a weekly paper

Editor's Corner

by Coury Turczyn

As the Sunsphere arose somewhat majestically over the tree lineâ"just high enough to blind me with a ray of reflected sunlight as I drove down I-275â"I knew that I had at last arrived in Knoxville, Tenn. That's because this golden collector of pure sun-energy was the only city landmark I knew about 20 years ago, dimly recalled from a network news report about the 1982 World's Fair. Now, after nine hours of driving from Michigan, I was more than ready to meet my new city. Who knew what other mysterious objects it held?

Naturally, I headed toward downtown first, navigating my way through sudden one-way streets and a severe lack of signage, guided by pure instinct. Amazingly, I eventually found myself parked right outside Market Square, which I later learned was Knoxville's historical center of commerce and culture. And I saw absolutely nothing going on. It was about 4 o'clock on a Saturday afternoon. There was nobody downtown.

I mean that in the most literal sense: I did not see a single person. I walked over to Gay Street and felt like Charlton Heston in Omega Man . Buildings stood empty and silent, doors locked, windows closed. There were no signs of human life, as if the populace had been wiped clean by a horrific laboratory virus. Or maybe the Soviets had dropped a neutron bomb on Knoxville even as I was driving down for my first big job? Suitably weirded out, I scuttled back to the Camaro and left to search for my apartment in Fort Sanders, thinking â“ What a strange town .â”

But things are different now, which was especially apparent to me after being away five years.

Knoxville's downtown is a vibrant place to be any day of the week. The city's cultural offerings have grown to the point where there's always something fun or enlightening to do. People are moving here in a constant stream, buying up everything from condos in historical buildings to McMansions on former farmlands, all at unheard-of prices. There are more festivals, music venues, restaurants, and nightclubs now than I can remember there being before. And, most importantly, people are actively involved in defining their lives here, whether it's by attending City Council meetings or Sundown in the City. Knoxville feels more alive, the lethargy that once smothered its potential seemingly dispelled.

It's a great time to be the editor of a Knoxville newsweekly. Which is why I'm particularly happy to be hereâ"both back in Knoxville and back at Metro Pulse . A lot of everything is happening all over town, which means there are stories galore: new issues, new scandals, new faces, new discoveries. Meanwhile, Metro Pulse has more pages than ever, with a deeper reach into the Knoxville community. After being away for so long, I feel like I've returned to a new city and just landed the best job in town. Again.

But Knoxville and its weekly paper are also at similar turning points: Can they build on their successes while still retaining the qualities that make them unique?

When I left Knoxville seven years ago, such a quandary would have sounded like a pipe dream. The city felt directionless, as local leaders kept trying to pin their hopes (and our tax dollars) on bizarre mega-plans for downtown renewal. And despite a mantle full of national and regional awards for its writing and design, Metro Pulse couldn't turn a profit to save its life. Now, the city is booming with developments that may change its personality for better or worse, and the once outsider Metro Pulse has become part of the establishmentâ"not only because it's been around for over 15 years, but also because of its new ownership by E.W. Scripps Co.

While I can't speak for the city's outlook (we can only write about it and hope somebody's reading), I can reassure you about this publication's future: Metro Pulse will be a great weekly paper with a strong, independent voice. And we'll do it by adhering to the same basic principles that have defined our best work since we started this endeavor:

⢠We're all about Knoxville. While national topics can certainly be localized, the main focus of our reporting will always be on this city's own stories. We know this place well and have our own perspective on what makes it unique.

⢠We're interested in everything. We won't limit our stories to a particular area, demographic, or topic. We want to cover the gamut of issues in news, politics, culture, entertainment, and people relevant to life in Knoxville.

⢠We call 'em as we see 'em. As a newsweekly (rather than the daily paper of record), it's our job to provide context, analysis, and depth in reporting Knoxville's issues. While we will always strive for fairness and balance, our stories will indeed express a point of view that is entirely our own.

⢠We want our city to become better. We aim to be a catalyst for positive change, writing to bring progressive ideas and common sense to Knoxville's challenges. But improving life here also means taking a critical look at our shortcomings.

These are the qualities that I believe made Metro Pulse a special publication during my previous tour of duty. But when I left in 2000, it was with mixed feelings of accomplishment and disappointment: After all of our (really hard) work and all of our (really good) writing in the previous nine years, Knoxville seemed little changed to me. It was still mired in bad government decision-making and a public apathy that stifled the civic pride needed to build a wonderful city. I came to the cynical conclusion that we had not made much of an impact on Knoxvilleâ"that our words had simply come and gone like so much other ephemera.

But now I've returned to a great place to live, a city that attracts fascinating people and odd occurrences in equal measure, where a critical mass of enthusiasm seems to have finally taken hold. So I'm starting to think my cynicism was prematureâ"a particularly Knoxvillian trait that we should all try to overcome, even when it comes to our alternative weekly paper.

Now, let's see what we can doâ

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