SYLVA—Southern Highland Reader author Bill Graham and former Smoky Mountain News reporter Giles Morris have teamed up to start the Tuckasegee Reader, an online journal of culture, outdoors and community news serving the area from Cashiers to the Nantahala Gorge.
TuckReader.com ‘s founders say it’s the first media company in the mountains west of Asheville to embrace the Web as its primary mode of delivering content and ads. Graham and Morris say the site will use multi-media storytelling techniques and “focus on painting a picture of a place characterized by its natural beauty and deep cultural roots.”
“The mountains are full of interesting people doing interesting things, which is what drives the culture and the economy here,” said Morris, who grew up in Washington, D.C., and is a fifth-generation journalist on his father’s side. “This is a place people come to and stay because it’s beautiful. So we’re going to tell stories about the people who love it out here and the places they care about.”
The Southern Highland Reader, Graham’s news blog is one of 25 hyper-local news sites nationwide to participate in the American University Institute for Interactive Journalism’s Networked Journalism Project. Graham says the new site will practice the same hyperlocal approaches.
WNC LINC –– which is the regional iteration of the Networked Journalism Project and is supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation –– has had its funding extended for a second year. The Southern Highland Reader‘s participation has transferred to Tuckreader.com, and the company will work closely with the project’s regional administrator, the Asheville Citizen-Times, to grow the cooperative news model.
“The Tuckasegee Reader is a critical voice in the mix for WNC LINC,” said Jason Sanford, creator of the AshVegas blog and administrator of the project at the Asheville Citizen-Times. “People across the country are looking to us for creative thinking around new media. I’m looking forward to working with Graham and his colleagues. Their team has already established itself as a player on the regional news scene, and I’m excited about his revamped online journal.”
Ad Director Laurie Powell, who previously led the Smoky Mountain News sales team in Jackson County, will handle the site’s outreach to the digital marketplace.
The team at Tuckasegee Reader believes that “hyper-local” media is media that cares about a place and its people.
“Media outlets are pretty limited in the Tuckasegee Valley and most that are here have a pretty top-down approach,” said Graham, who started The Southern Highland Reader while running a local design company. “The economy is changing and readers are becoming much more savvy. They don’t want a gatekeeper of local information any more than they’ll live with one or two TV stations.”
At at time when pundits are touting the value of “hyper-local” media models and the bounty of “long tail markets,” Tuckreader.com’s founder say they are taking both of these concepts to heart in creating a local Web platform that can combine feature writing, community-generated content, and a talented list of contributors into a new type of media market in the mountains.