I remember being relieved and deeply pleased in the late 1980s, when Jeff Fobes and the WNC Greens formed and initiated Mountain Xpress’ predecessor publication, the Green Line. Asheville and Western North Carolina had lacked intensive, in-depth coverage of controversial environmental and social-justice issues. Whether it was clearcutting in the Asheville watershed, discrimination at the Biltmore Forest Country Club, homophobia, Central America or a myriad of public policy decisions, Green Line gave voice to those issues and concerns.
Thus, when plans for the Mountain Xpress were formulated and became public in ’94, there was consternation within Asheville and among the region’s progressives. There was fear that the Green Line was “selling out,” losing its commitment to social justice, etc. But I think many of us who had those fears also sensed that the move was a logical and necessary broadening of scope in order to be be sustainable financially and, importantly, to reach out beyond the choir.
Over the years, the Mountain Xpress has proved itself to be that blend of general news and event information that reaches a big-tent audience while also honing in on important social, environmental and justice issues. Mountain Xpress has become a must-read for a wide spectrum of the community, including not only visitors to Asheville or residents looking for weekend activities but also public officials and decision-makers, other media outlets, community organizers and everyone concerned about the quality of life in the region.
I realize just how important the Mountain Xpress is when I try to imagine what our community would be without it. Thus, it’s useful on its 20th anniversary that we remind ourselves not to take for granted this important “connector” we have.
Monroe Gilmour lives in Black Mountain and has been a community organizer in WNC since 1986. He is coordinator of WNC Citizens Ending Institutional Bigotry (WNCCEIB) wncceib.org.