What Does It Take to Get Knoxville Riled? Metro Pulse?

Lincoln, Metro Pulse Protest and Rally, Krutch Park, Knoxville, October 2014

Lincoln, Metro Pulse Protest and Rally, Krutch Park, Knoxville, October 2014

This weekend marked the rally to support Metro Pulse and/or protest the actions of Scripps to cease its publication and layoff all its employees. Since the announcement last Wednesday passions have run high across the city and on Thursday Chris Irwin started a Facebook Page called “We Loved Metropulse!!! KNS and coporate master Scripps you Suck! Rally” With invitations sent to 1600 people, nearly 250 said they would or might attend. Fifty attended, but it was an enthusiastic fifty. Maybe the crowd would have been larger with more notice.

Protest on Market Square Last Spring, Knoxville, 2014

Protest on Market Square Last Spring, Knoxville, 2014

Protest on Market Square Last Spring, Knoxville, 2014

Protest on Market Square Last Spring, Knoxville, 2014

Protest on Market Square Last Spring, Knoxville, 2014

Protest on Market Square Last Spring, Knoxville, 2014

Protests are pretty common downtown, and they vary tremendously in size and intensity. I’ve covered many since I began writing about the center city. Probably the first, in August 2010, was the Neo-Nazi March, which was actually billed as an anti-immigration protest. Of course, I covered the counter-protest. Immigration seems to draw the largest crowds. I covered immigration protests in June of 2012 with the focus-of-the-moment on 287g. That one drew a couple hundred which may be the largest I’ve seen downtown. The same topic came up a couple of months later when a group touting “No Papers,” came through town.

Protest on Market Square Last Spring, Knoxville, 2014

Protest on Market Square Last Spring, Knoxville, 2014

Protest on Market Square Last Spring, Knoxville, 2014

Protest on Market Square Last Spring, Knoxville, 2014

Protest on Market Square Last Spring, Knoxville, 2014

Protest on Market Square Last Spring, Knoxville, 2014

Unions also draw a crowd at times. The Henley Bridge deaths were the subject of a march and rally, which drew a few dozen. Protests to save the buildings on Walnut from destruction at the hands of St. John’s Episcopal Church drew a dozen once and less on a second round. Anti-education tax protests drew a dozen or so, while one education rally in March of this year drew several dozen. Last October a rally to protest U.S. intervention in Syria drew twenty or so, while you can see in the photo included here that ten turned out to protest Israeli actions in the middle-east this past spring.

Protest on Market Square Last Spring, Knoxville, 2014

Protest on Market Square Last Spring, Knoxville, 2014

Protest on Market Square Last Spring, Knoxville, 2014

Protest on Market Square Last Spring, Knoxville, 2014

Protest on Market Square Last Spring, Knoxville, 2014

Protest on Market Square Last Spring, Knoxville, 2014

Most of the pictures you see here are from a rally on Market Square from this past Spring. Like many, it combined a number of causes. Education, a living wage, voter suppression, immigration and other issues are reflected on the signs. This particular crowd was notable for its diversity – blends of races, genders and ages joined together under a sort of human-rights umbrella. Sometimes it’s difficult to determine the original unifying theme of an event.

Protest on Market Square Last Spring, Knoxville, 2014

Protest on Market Square Last Spring, Knoxville, 2014

Protest on Market Square Last Spring, Knoxville, 2014

Protest on Market Square Last Spring, Knoxville, 2014

Protest on Market Square Last Spring, Knoxville, 2014

Protest on Market Square Last Spring, Knoxville, 2014

Protest on Market Square Last Spring, Knoxville, 2014

Protest on Market Square Last Spring, Knoxville, 2014

So, we don’t really mobilize in large numbers whatever the cause. I’m not sure if it’s always been this way or if we’ve gotten lazy. I’ve only been in Knoxville since 1982, so I don’t remember earlier protests from the civil rights and Vietnam eras. I know a protest was mounted when Richard Nixon came to a Billy Graham Crusade in Neyland Stadium. I’ve seen small protests, from the left and the right. Anti-abortion groups have sometimes mounted a crowd as did the Tea Party when it was a hot item. I remember protesters outside the movie theater outside West Town Mall (since torn down) when they showed “The Last Temptation of Christ.”

Stilted Protest Against Amendment One, Market Square, Knoxville, October 2014

Stilted Protest Against Amendment One, Market Square, Knoxville, October 2014

Jay Clark Performs at a Protest Rally Against Amendment One, Knoxville, October 2014

Jay Clark Performs at a Protest Rally Against Amendment One, Knoxville, October 2014

Jay Clark Performs at a Protest Rally Against Amendment One, Knoxville, October 2014

Jay Clark Performs at a Protest Rally Against Amendment One, Knoxville, October 2014

This weekend saw a couple of protests. The first, on Saturday involved an action to encourage people to vote “no” on amendment one to change the state constitution in the current general election. Two, apparently uncoordinated, efforts centered on Market Square with a group of stilt-walkers passing through with music and signs encouraging people to oppose the amendment. A larger effort was mounted with a concert on the square culminating with a set by Jay Clark. It attracted a few dozen on a chilly night.

Chris Irwin, Metro Pulse Protest and Rally, Krutch Park, Knoxville, October 2014

Chris Irwin, Metro Pulse Protest and Rally, Krutch Park, Knoxville, October 2014

Christ Irwin, Metro Pulse Protest and Rally, Krutch Park, Knoxville, October 2014

Christ Irwin, Metro Pulse Protest and Rally, Krutch Park, Knoxville, October 2014

All of which brings me back to the fifty people gathered in Krutch Park to protest the closure of Metro Pulse. Some of my favorite people attended and spoke. Several explained the role Metro Pulse played in their lives. Kim Trent spoke of moving here from Atlanta and being ready to leave town when she found Metro Pulse, which convinced her that this could be a city she could love – and Knox Heritage has benefited greatly that she stayed. Michael Gill and others spoke of the support provided to local music and musicians. Others talked about how Metro Pulse gave them a connection to Knoxville when they moved away from the city.

Kim Trent, Metro Pulse Protest and Rally, Krutch Park, Knoxville, October 2014

Kim Trent, Metro Pulse Protest and Rally, Krutch Park, Knoxville, October 2014

Holly Hambright, Metro Pulse Protest and Rally, Krutch Park, Knoxville, October 2014

Holly Hambright, Metro Pulse Protest and Rally, Krutch Park, Knoxville, October 2014

A common theme through the various speeches was the loss of a cultural connecting point. Metro Pulse took on issues which other local media outlets tend to avoid, such as strip mining in the east Tennessee region. Holly Hambright pointed out that her target audience is under-forty and, with the demise of the Metro Pulse, she doesn’t have a good outlet for connecting with them. Also mentioned was the go-to cultural calender for what to do in the city. Two couples from west Knoxville pointed out that Metro Pulse is what brought them to downtown events.

The conversation turned to what comes next. One person asked, “Are we supposed to turn to blogs?” He rolled his eyes. A couple of people, including Evelyn Gill said it is time to let go of the past and move forward. While anger ran high toward Scripps, she pointed out that good people still write for them and damaging them doesn’t bring back the independent weekly. A crowd-sourcing effort was mentioned and a few people offered help with trying to start another independent paper. It’s a daunting task and, honestly, I can’t imagine it happening outside people who really know the business. Some mentioned the need for a major donor.

Karen Storts-Brinks, Metro Pulse Protest and Rally, Krutch Park, Knoxville, October 2014

Karen Storts-Brinks, Metro Pulse Protest and Rally, Krutch Park, Knoxville, October 2014

Michael Gill, Metro Pulse Protest and Rally, Krutch Park, Knoxville, October 2014

Michael Gill, Metro Pulse Protest and Rally, Krutch Park, Knoxville, October 2014

One potential variable lies in the hands and plans of those who worked for Metro Pulse at the end. Of course, they can’t speak, because the organization that fancies itself a protector of free speech has told them they will lose their severance pay if they talk. Speculation has also been heard as to whether they have “Do Not Compete” clauses in their contract. In the interim, a couple have surfaced, or appear about to surface with their own websites: Jack Neely hasn’t begun posting yet, but the webpage is ready. My friend, and now-former classical music critic at Metro Pulse is publishing at Arts Knoxville. There is also an online history of the early years of Metro Pulse.

So, what next? Letting Scripps know what you think might feel good, but it doesn’t seem likely to help the current problem. Since the initial announcement they have acted as if nothing significant has happened. Another, hopefully larger, rally may be held. It’s possible you will be able to donate to a new effort or encourage people with the wherewithal to do it, to do it. It will require a huge commitment and perhaps risk on the part of some and it still may not work. Missing the Metro Pulse won’t be enough in an era when mounting an independent print voice and finding an economic model that works is extremely financially daunting. Does Knoxville have the capacity to rise to this challenge? It will take more than fifty people.

Comments

  1. Hey what could we do to bring you all back I miss reading and looking at the paper

  2. I was so upset to see metro pulse shut down we paid for advertising in the local newspaper several times a year I had no idea that Scripps took , over the metro pulse was one of the most informative and influential news paper oug fir the community

  3. What I’ve been wondering is why has no one mentioned the original 2007 sell-out to Scripps in the first place — what do people expect large corporations to do? Take the high road? No, they’ll buy things out, exploit them for a while, then dispose of them when they’re done. The surprise is what’s shocking to me.

    Perhaps it’s time for someone to start a kickstarter or another crowd-sourcing avenue a la Project for Awesome. I certainly would subscribe and donate to get it started up again.

    Another point of contention in the rhetoric that’s surrounded the closure: many have stated that MP was the only indy paper in town. It’s not. There’s Knoxville Focus (which is not of course as trendy as MP was) and Blank. MP hasn’t been indy since 2007.

  4. I wish I had known about the protest…I would have been there. Being fairly new here, I have relied on Metro Pulse to keep me abreast of cultural events indepth and it seems to fill a void that brings people into the “know”. However, as a former publisher of print media, I certainly know the complexities and the rising costs of print media. It is shameful that an online version of it will not be taking it’s place…I wonder if the local homeless paper could fill some of the massive impending void of well-organized, reliably presented information.

  5. I’m glad there was a protest last night in Krutch park about medicare expansion.

  6. I’m kinda shocked to read your comments on the ex-Metro Pulse staff severance packages, since I’ve encountered no other mention of that information being discussed. The phrase “(six months salary, so I’ve heard)” gives the direct impression that someone in a position to know gave that information out. Which means it suggests someone on staff did exactly what they aren’t allowed to do without, as you note, putting their severance package in jeopardy.

    If a staffer did not speak to you, or if you’re unable to confirm that the information came from a staffer, then I implore you to clarify this as baseless rumor in the post, or, as appropriate, at least qualify it as speculation coming from someone not in a position to know the specifics of this situation. People’s security is at stake here, and clarification is necessary on this point.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      You make a decent point, Amanda, so I’ve removed the reference. I certainly do not want to do harm. I have had no contact with any former employees of Metro Pulse since the closure, so no contract has been breached in my presence. Still, the fact that there is a gag order and that the severance is contingent on that came from somewhere and has been widely repeated and I doubt the size of the package would be included in the gag order, but you have a point. Baseless rumor, so it’s gone. Thanks for watching out for everyone.

  7. “Knoxville is not the same place, nor is Ashley and his company.” That sounds like a challenge.

  8. I would have been had I not had to work. Damn this sucks.
    Maybe it’s time for a smaller, leaner, and meaner version of the MP to emerge? I could care less for Knoxville.com. It looks a “hip” version of the Sentinel, but it just comes across as lame.

  9. M. Janice Mitchell says

    Perhaps I should have wondered and pondered on this much earlier – I would have gladly paid $1 or $2 per issue. It was the only way I knew about events happening in the city that never made it to the News-Sentinel or saw a review of a restaurant I had heard about but didn’t know exactly where it was or what they served plus many other exciting things or items of interest that were controversial. It was like a newspaper for the city campus of Knoxville. Am missing it already.

  10. Bonny Pendleton says

    I wonder if Ashley Capps might be interested in bankrolling a start up. I do think a new Metro could exist with a cost of $1 a copy. And advertising in the Metro Pulse wasn’t cheap. It could be a money maker as a for profit paper with the same general theme. I know I’m not awed with Knoxville.Com as a replacement.

    • Bonny,
      First, Ashley Capps was perhaps the original driving force in the original 1991 Metro Pulse startup. But, it would be highly unlikely that those particular set of events would re-occur in 2014. Knoxville is not the same place, nor is Ashley and his company.
      Second, as you suggest, given the NS mass-market culture desert of unawareness, knoxville.com can NEVER even remotely hope to replicate what Metro Pulse did for arts and local business. They just don’t understand the demographic that Metro Pulse served–never have, never will–nor do they possess quality writers. The same people responsible for their inane feature writing are now, according to the press release, heading up knoxville.com.

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