Dear Readers December 17, 2009

Sherri Gardner Howell

I am not the first person to embrace change. I am a creature of habit, and I often will choose the familiar, the comfortable over something that’s main redeeming quality is that it is “new.”

In addition to that personality trait, I am a firm, staunch believer in the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Put those two together, and you might understand my negative reaction to the news that Scripps was going to make some pretty major changes to their website platforms, and Blount Today would be included in the changes.

“No,” I said.

“It’s better,” they said.

“No,” I repeated. “I like our website. It’s easy to navigate. It’s clean. It reflects our newspaper.”

“The new one is all those things and more,” they said.

“No,” I said.

To save my job -- I’m a bit stubborn -- our graphics editor and website manager Tessa Bright stepped in quickly.

“Just let me look at it,” she said. “I know what you like most about our website, so just let me look at what they have up their sleeves and just see.”

“OK,” I said, because it was Tessa. “But I’m going to hate it. And it better not be all dark and gloomy like some of the new ones I’ve seen at other Scripps papers.”

“I’ll pick good, Blount Today colors,” Tessa promised.

“I’m still going to hate it,” I insisted.

Under Tessa’s guidance and masterful management (plus a corporate web design that really was better), we launched our new website on Wednesday, Dec. 2.

It’s beautiful. It’s clean, simple, easy to navigate, and it reflects our newspaper. Plus, it is just completely cool.

Here are some of my favorite features of our new

• Our poster photos are even bigger. We feature four of our top stories every week in our “poster,” which is the big picture you see when you first go to our website. The four pictures scroll across the site, and you can click on any of the large pictures to go straight to the featured story.

• The weather is prominently displayed on the right in a very simple, easy to read form, giving the current temperature, the high and low for the day and a three-day forecast. Plus, if you click on the map, a weather page comes up that gives Maryville’s six-day forecast and the phase of the moon. On the radar tab, a click will give you a choice of three interactive maps for Maryville, plus five more cities in the region. If you want to know if it ever rains in California, put in the Beverly Hills 90210 zip code and the map will take you there.

Also on the weather map is a forecast tab, which gives you a 12-hour summary that includes temperature, “feels like,” humidity and precipitation. And all this is at your fingertips without ever leaving the Blount Today website.

• I’m already running out of space for this week’s Dear Readers, so I’ve got to jump past the other 25 things I love about our new website and tell you my very favorite. Under the Lifestyle tab, click on Events Calendar. It’s a real calendar that you can view for the next five days, or go to the whole month view. Not only are all the events we list in Blount Today on this calendar by the day they happen, but you can put in your community events as well, and we will post them.

The calendar listing gives a brief description of the event, a map to the place where the event will be held and an event detail box. If the event is outside, you will also see a weather forecast for the event when it gets to within three or four days of the date. It is completely searchable by event type, date, place or key word.

We are going to put as many events on the calendar as we hear about and encourage you to post your community events as well. That way, if you are planning a fund raiser or party and want to check the date, just look on our event calendar to see what else in going on in Blount County that day.

I don’t have space this week to tell you all the other great things, so try to spend a little time on Check out the Photo Galleries under Media, the videos, the archived recipes from In the Kitchen.

One thing that didn’t change on our website is still very important to us at Blount Today. Unless you want to comment or post an event, there is no registration required at

And, more importantly, our completely free website is an enhancement to our print product, not an abbreviated version of it. Everything that is in our print product is available on the website, plus all the extra photos we couldn’t squeeze into our printed newspaper.

Blount Today in print and go hand-in-hand to give you a terrific snapshot of this wonderful place you call home.

© 2009 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 1

Tenn3ssee writes:

This is my first visit since the redesign... I really like the new site & will visit regularly now. Great work!