Dear Readers for July 30, 2009

Blount Today was born on Aug. 26, 2004, and Sherri has never looked back. Community journalism done right, the way it is at Blount Today, has always had her heart, and she loves her team, loves the community and really, really loves OUR newspaper.

No matter what the calendar says, summer is over. When the school bells ring, it’s pretty much a no-brainer that the schedules, habits and attitudes of the majority of the population changes. The weather may still be scorching, but the fun part of summer is over.

At Blount Today, we’ve been as guilty as retailers who put Christmas decorations up in October. We’ve enjoyed our summer and gotten quite a bit done, but we’ve been thinking Fall for weeks now. Fall is always an exciting time for Blount Today, and it’s about to get even more special.

In addition to our Thursday Blount Today, the Fall season brings a second section to our readers. When high schools in Blount County and the cities strap on the helmets, Blount Today gears up for a hopefully long season of Monday Morning Quarterback.

Monday Morning Quarterback is a special tab-size section that comes out every Monday as long as there is a Blount County high school team still playing. We cover every football game with a reporter and photographer, and we bring you the stories, analysis, game photos and Snapshots. Monday Morning Quarterback is inserted into Monday’s News Sentinel in Blount County and parts of Loudon, and we deliver it to all the high schools.

Sometimes the kids are waiting for us at the door! It is very gratifying, in this day where all the “experts” say we are losing the next generation of newspaper readers, to have a loyal and eager audience of young people.

We also have Blount Today Sports Radio in the fall, when Marty Millsaps and Joe Lambert and crew pick a game of the week to broadcast over WLHR 97.9 FM every Friday night. That’s a fun experience as well, and our listeners keep increasing -- both for the football and the great give-aways we offer each week.

The great thing about this team here at Blount Today, however, is that we never like to sit still. At a retreat last year, Susan Stout came up with an idea that knocked our socks off and propelled us forward once again. We’re doing great with football, Susan admitted. But we are really missing a lot of things that go on in our schools.

We knew that, and we love doing stories about the great programs, teachers, fund raisers, needs and hopes of our schools. Still, we’re a small staff, and space is always at a premium. Could we really do more?

Susan wasn’t going to let us get away with a simple pledge to do better. She threw down the challenge: Can we get to every school in our community at least once during the school year?

Being a big fan of teachers and a former School Page editor at the Knoxville News Sentinel, I found myself rolling Susan’s idea around in my mind. Could we? And, if we could, how would we pay for it -- as my boss keeps reminding me that Blount Today is a business.

The end result of all this planning and thinking and figuring is one of the most exciting things we’ve done since the first Blount Today rolled off the press on Aug. 26, 2004.

On Aug. 31, we will introduce School Spirit. School Spirit will be an 8-page tab-sized newspaper that will be delivered with Monday Morning Quarterback. Each issue will feature three schools, and our goal is to give each of our 29 public schools and several private schools two pages. On those pages we will highlight with a feature story something good that is happening in that school, a Principal’s corner for the head honcho to have his or her say, some photos of students’ art work from the school hallways or classrooms and a “needs” list of items the school would like to have. We hope to find enough sponsors to guarantee each school its own two-page spread and give them their time to shine. School Spirit will last for 11 weeks, and should be a keepsake for each school featured.

There are a lot of good things going on in Blount County, Maryville City and Alcoa City schools. Blount Today is eager to share them with you.

If you are interested in helping out -- and promoting your business -- get in touch with Marty Millsaps or your sales executive. It’s a great opportunity for local businesses to join us in promoting the good news about schools in this great county.

Who needs summer? The Fall is going to Rock with Spirit!

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