30 years and growing: Local news is here to stay

Mountain Xpress staff photo
X MARKS THE SPOT: Publisher Jeff Fobes (center, holding the X) launched Green Line, the predecessor of Mountain Xpress, in 1987. Shown here with most of the paper’s current staff, Fobes never expected then that his upstart publication would eventually rival the town’s daily newspaper in size and reporting power. With the most recent layoffs at the Citizen Times on Jan. 22, however, that’s the new reality. Photo by Cindy Kunst

Flashback to 1987: Xpress Publisher Jeff Fobes was gathering a group of volunteer activists to put together and publish Green Line, the monthly newspaper of the Western North Carolina Green party. For the first couple of years, if you wanted a seat at the fledgling publication’s table, you could have it — but you had to bring your own chair, Jeff recalls.

Over 30 years later, some of those early contributors’ castoff chairs still linger in Mountain Xpress’ office. But while the mismatched furniture and alternative-media attitude remain at the successor to Jeff’s scrappy first publication, Xpress now employs nearly as many journalists as the daily Citizen Times up the street.

Following the most recent Citizen Times layoffs of five editorial staffers announced Jan. 22, part of nationwide cuts by parent company Gannett Co., columnist and reporter John Boyle wrote on Twitter that the reductions whittled the Citizen Times newsroom’s strength to 13. That’s down from over 70 at the turn of the 21st century.

Today, Mountain Xpress’ editorial team numbers 10, joined by another 18 local employees in its advertising, design, administration and distribution departments.

Approaching something like parity with Asheville’s once-mighty daily newspaper has more to do with the dire economics of the news business in 2019 than the triumph of independent, locally owned media, but the fact remains: Thanks to the support of our readers and advertisers, Mountain Xpress is still standing, and not merely as a shadow of its former self. We have a strong team and a sustainable business, and we take seriously our responsibility to deliver information about the news, arts and culture of this community.

While Xpress can’t replace the volume of the coverage provided by a fully resourced Citizen Times or one of the other daily newspapers that served this community for over a century, we will continue to report on the topics that have been our mainstays for many years: local government and economy; the region’s environment; arts and entertainment; food; history; health and wellness; opinion; and community happenings.

Supporting our local journalism is as simple as picking up your free copy of Xpress every week or visiting our website at mountainx.com (no paywall!). Want to do more? Make a point of patronizing our local advertisers. Thank them for spending some of their advertising dollars with an independent media outlet.

Now more than ever, we hope our work will inspire readers to join in the community conversation at the local level, where the impact of citizen action is greatest. That’s our mission, and you can help us achieve it by sending us your news tips, story ideas and letters to the editor.

We’re not going anywhere, and we look forward to continuing to bear witness as the story of Western North Carolina unfolds.

Virginia Daffron is managing editor of Xpress — and she writes stories, too.

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About Virginia Daffron
Managing editor, lover of mountains, native of WNC. Follow me @virginiadaffron

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2 thoughts on “30 years and growing: Local news is here to stay

  1. Curious

    Can Asheville be the kind of city it wants to be without a thriving daily newspaper? Are any community leaders talking about this?
    In the meantime, can MX expand and deepen its already very good coverage? Adding Mark Barrett would be a good first step?

    • Virginia Daffron

      Thanks, Curious. I’m asking myself all of these same questions :). And trying to take appropriate action accordingly.

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