Knoxville’s Best Alternative

When E.W. Scripps purchased Metro Pulse in June of 2007, the reaction among longtime readers was decidedly unfavorable. Which is easy to understand since the combination of a large, national media corporation and a local, independent paper that often chided that particular corporation did not seem like a comfortable match.

The big question was whether Metro Pulse would change under corporate ownership—particularly when the corporation in question also owns the only daily paper in town. How could it not? Some (all?) of the online comments at the time were, shall we say, pessimistic about our near-future as a viable alternative to the News Sentinel:

“Scripps may have gained another paper, but Knoxville just lost one.”

“The almost inevitable result will be the demise of Metro Pulse, either through outright extinction or being folded into the News Sentinel (maybe as a hybrid with the weekend arts mag).”

“Whatever form it takes from here, it won’t be the scrappy independent voice challenging the powers that be. It will be a subsidiary of Powers That Be, Inc., beholden not just to readers and advertisers, but to shareholders, too.”

“I have a hard time understanding how the people who brought us Preview are gonna do anything but kill the Pulse.”

So far, and much to KNS publisher Bruce Hartmann’s credit, Scripps has not folded us into their evil plan for Ultimate Knoxville Dominion. Maybe that will happen later. But for the past two years, everything you have read in Metro Pulse is entirely our own fault.

There have indeed been major changes since Scripps bought Metro Pulse, but I believe they’ve been positive ones—a refreshed editorial staff of both veterans and newcomers, new columns and departments, a complete redesign of the paper, and a revamped website. Other than shrinking the dimensions of the paper itself, all of these changes were by our own hand.

And in the past month or so, we’ve had some nice pay-offs. First, we won 10 awards—with six first-place finishes—at the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists’ Golden Press Card Awards. Which is very nice. But last weekend, we also scored four AltWeekly Awards by the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies at their annual convention in Tucson, Ariz. That’s twice the number of awards we won in any single year before. These awards are especially important to us because we are competing against the best weekly papers in the country—and getting two first-places in one year is a pretty big deal. (All told, Metro Pulse has won 17 AAN awards since they started issuing them in 1996; the last prize won by Metro Pulse was an honorable mention for Frank Cagle’s “Frank Talk” column in 2005.)

Here are our winners, competing against alt-weeklies with circulations of 50,000 or less:

PUBLIC SERVICE

First Place: The Jackie Walker series of stories by Betty Bean (Nov. 22, 2007-July 23, 2008), Betty’s account of the famed ’60s University of Tennessee football player—who was also black and out, and who died of AIDS in 2002—and his brother Marshall’s quest to get him belatedly inducted into the Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame was picked up by The New York Times (who credited us) and the News Sentinel (who did not). Walker was finally inducted in 2008.

ARTS FEATURE

First Place: “Lowbrow Genius” by Coury Turczyn (Jan. 17, 2008). The story of how the long-lost woodcuts of influential mid-century artist Jim Flora ended up in Knoxville made for a ripping art yarn.

INNOVATION/FORMAT BUSTER

Second Place: “Superhero vs. Autobiographical Comics” by Coury Turczyn, Matthew Everett, and Travis Gray. For last year’s Comics and Puzzles issue, we decided to write about comics—in a comics format. Of course, the reason why it won was all the work Travis put into illustrating it, using the different styles of autobiographical and superhero comics.

ARTS CRITICISM

Third Place: “So, This Is My Life...” by Charles Maldonado. In our Summer Reading issue, Charles was determined to tackle the bizarre world of young adult fiction—and he did so by consulting with his Teenage Charles for an entertaining essay that still managed to make sense.

I’m very proud of the progress we’ve made in the past two years, and we plan on continuing that arc. In the last couple of months, we’ve been gathering feedback from you both online and with survey forms at our Metro Pulse booth at Sundown in the City. (Go to metropulse.com/metro-pulse-reader-survey to add your own thoughts.) We’ll be adding and subtracting features based on your suggestions and our own instincts, aiming to keep Metro Pulse fresh for both you and us. In this issue, for instance, we’re reintroducing two columns that we used to run in the ’90s: local business profiles and news on pages 50 and 51. It seemed to us that local retailers and restaurateurs could use the exposure these days.

In this depressed economy and general print-media malaise, it’s hard to predict where we’ll be in a year—but I believe we’ll still be trying our best to provide you with an independently written weekly alternative.

Coury Turczyn, editor

© 2009 MetroPulse. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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