As you may have heard, the local journalism landscape changed significantly in Knox County this week.
Metric Media, a Chicago-based company with hundreds of websites across the U.S., bought the Mount Vernon News. The News had been locally owned by the Culbertson family for more than 80 years. Before that, two locally owned newspapers (the Democratic Banner and Republican News) served Knox County simultaneously for 97 years. They combined to form the News in 1939.
I'd like to start by saying this: I am 100-percent willing to give the new owners a chance, and you should be, too.
While Metric Media has a murky reputation, as has been detailed in numerous media reports over the last year, we have no idea what its plans are for the Mount Vernon News. For now, it is making high promises to the community – more local news than ever before, improved print and digital products, etc. – and I'm willing to give the new owners the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.
At the same time, I know this transition has not been easy for many News employees. I know some have left the newspaper after years of service, and that breaks my heart. While we compete every day for stories, I am proud to call so many News employees my friends.
These are people I've spent long hours with – hot days and cold nights – trying to track down sources and cover community events. These are people who loved covering Knox County, and who truly believed in the value of local journalism. They were wonderful colleagues and gracious competitors. It breaks my heart to see their careers at the newspaper end like this.
And to be clear, the Mount Vernon News is not dead – there are still great employees who remain, and I hope they are able to carry the paper forward under new management. The reporters who have left, however, have my deepest sympathy and respect.
As I felt this sense of sadness this week, I also felt a sense of heightened responsibility.
Local journalism in Knox County took a hit. Who will step in to fill the void?
Here at Knox Pages, we are already doing so. As my publisher Jay Allred said this week, "We're stepping into the breach." We've already increased reporting capacity and more is coming. We are continuing our mission of serving readers with relevant, in-depth reporting, but now with a renewed sense of vigor; a heightened sense of duty.
We know Knox County deserves quality local journalism. That's why our owners bought the company in 2017, and why we've continued to grow and invest in the community ever since. It's why, this week, we decided collectively to renew that investment – to make clear to our readers that we're all in.
It won't be easy. We're a small-but-mighty news organization here in Knox County. Here's what you can expect, however, from myself, Cheryl Splain, Mark Jordan and the rest of our team: We're going to give you all we've got.
We're going to cover the highs, the lows, and every day in between. We're going to do our best to hold public officials accountable, and to function as your go-to source for Knox County news. We're going to work tirelessly, now more than ever, to keep our neighbors informed.
But we need your help. As you saw first-hand this week, local journalism is not a guarantee. Its future, especially in 2020, is not promised. Our organization operates within the same reality.
If you believe in the importance of independent, local journalism in Knox County, we need your support. Our future depends on it. Become a member today to make our mission possible. Every single dollar goes toward boots-on-the-ground newsroom efforts.
Here at Knox Pages, we are independent. We are locally owned. And we are built to last.
But we need your support to make it happen.