A milestone birthday is a time for many things: appreciation, celebration, reflection, resolution even wonderment about both the past and future.
As Metro Pulse hits the 10-year mark this week, my mind is a jumble of all of the above, along with many other sentiments. Part of me can hardly believe we've made it and is ever so grateful to everyone who has contributed to our sheer survival. Part of me is proud of all that we've accomplished and the contributions that I believe we're making to this community. At the same time, part of me is acutely conscious of our shortcomings and vexed that we don't yet have the wherewithal to be the publication I yearn for Metro Pulse to become.
When I moved back to my native Knoxville in 1992 after having spent more than 30 years working in Washington, Chicago and New York, Metro Pulse was still in its infancy. But it existed, and its sheer existence made it possible for me to fulfill a long-time dream to someday have a publication I could call my own in the city I have always considered home. While I had the resources, I lacked the know-how to start one from scratch. So my everlasting gratitude goes to Ashley Capps for providing the seed corn and assembling the team that gave birth to Metro Pulse in 1991. Ditto for our initial publisher, Rand Pearson, who moved on in 1996.
As Ashley is the first to acknowledge, all he had in mind was a vehicle for promoting Knoxville's entertainment scene. It was Rand who had the vision and the passion to get Metro Pulse headed down the path toward what it has become. Alternative weeklies were springing up all over the place about that time, but it took a much larger investment than Ashley was willing or able to provide to make Rand's vision for one in Knoxville a reality. And that's where Joe Sullivan stepped in as Metro Pulse's new owner.
The Metro Pulse team that Capps and Pearson had assembled included Ian Blackburn, Jared Coffin, Pat Hinds and Coury Turczyn. And I can't say enough good things about each of them.
Ian was and thankfully continues to be the glue that holds us together operationally. Neither a fire, nor sleet storms nor any of the Murphy's Law manifestations that bedevil databases, file servers, networks, and the like has kept a single issue of Metro Pulse from getting to the printer on time. Looking beyond the printed word, Ian also single-handedly created Metropulse.com on his own initiative at a time when I barely knew the internet existed.
Coffin and Hinds weren't with us all that long, but each made a lasting mark. As our original art director, Jared established design standards that set Metro Pulse apart and that his successor, Lisa Horstman, has taken to an even higher level. As our original sales manager, Pat was dauntless in getting our fledgling publication taken seriously by prospective advertisers who'd never heard of us.
And then there's Coury Turczyn who was our editorial mainstay until his better half, Hillari Dowdle, pulled him away to Birmingham just about a year ago. To say that Coury and I were the odd couple or a study in contrasts is probably an understatement. If Metro Pulse is, as someone once labeled it, a cross between Rolling Stone and The Atlantic Monthly, Coury was the Rolling Stone and I was and remain the Atlantic Monthly wannabe.
If left to my own devices, though, Metro Pulse might have become a journal of essays and treatises appealing to a small subset of the close to 30,000 Knoxvillians who unfailingly (God bless you!) pick up our paper each week. And I have no doubt that Coury's sense of show biz had more to do with that than my loftier aspirations.
In Jesse Mayshark, we now have a talented editor who's capable of orchestrating an eclectic mix of stories. All we need is the revenue growth that will enable us to augment our editorial resources to tackle more of them, especially more demanding ones. Unfortunately, the economy hasn't been cooperating lately.
Since Nora Jones joined us as general manager in 1998, Metro Pulse has been blessed with excellent sales and organizational leadership. She's brought order out of chaos in meshing our sales, ad design/ production and business departments which had all been at loggerheads—due in no small measure to negligence on my part. But not even Nora can hold our sales up at a time when they are declining at nearly every publication in the land. May our advertisers all be blessed with better business come this fall—and may that rising tide lift our boat as well.
Regretfully, I must tell you that Nora will be leaving us in the fall because family needs compel her to return to her native California. However, Brig Samson and Angie Griffin have been well groomed to succeed her on the sales and marketing fronts. Jill Knight and Sharon Long have long since proven to be worthy successors to their illustrious forbears as ad design/production and business manager respectively. The four of them are all so highly motivated and work so well together I don't think they will need a taskmaster or a peacekeeper. As Jill discovered on our recent rafting expedition, though, I do know how to wield a paddle.
Hard times or no, we've got a lot to celebrate. But no celebration will be complete unless it's shared with you our readers and our advertisers. So we hope as many of you as possible will make it to our 10th birthday party this Thursday evening on Market Square.