Two WNC journalists launch hyperlocal website,Tuckasegee Reader, serving Cashiers/Nantahala

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. ‘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, 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,”’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.


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Jeff Fobes
As a long-time proponent of media for social change, my early activities included coordinating the creation of a small community FM radio station to serve a poor section of St. Louis, Mo. In the 1980s I served as the editor of the "futurist" newsletter of the U.S. Association for the Club of Rome, a professional/academic group with a global focus and a mandate to act locally. During that time, I was impressed by a journalism experiment in Mississippi, in which a newspaper reporter spent a year in a small town covering how global activities impacted local events (e.g., literacy programs in Asia drove up the price of pulpwood; soybean demand in China impacted local soybean prices). Taking a cue from the Mississippi journalism experiment, I offered to help the local Green Party in western North Carolina start its own newspaper, which published under the name Green Line. Eventually the local party turned Green Line over to me, giving Asheville-area readers an independent, locally focused news source that was driven by global concerns. Over the years the monthly grew, until it morphed into the weekly Mountain Xpress in 1994. I've been its publisher since the beginning. Mountain Xpress' mission is to promote grassroots democracy (of any political persuasion) by serving the area's most active, thoughtful readers. Consider Xpress as an experiment to see if such a media operation can promote a healthy, democratic and wise community. In addition to print, today's rapidly evolving Web technosphere offers a grand opportunity to see how an interactive global information network impacts a local community when the network includes a locally focused media outlet whose aim is promote thoughtful citizen activism. Follow me @fobes

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.