Dear Readers for May 28, 20009

I have never been accused of having a neat desk. It is “orderly,” which means I know which stack holds everything I need even if the casual on-looker doesn’t. But no one would call it “neat.”

My desk this month is creaking under the weight of the Blount Today “inventory.” The Blount Today “bible,” so named because it has everything in it that we need to live a full and happy Blount Today life, is so heavy with notebooks and photo discs that we can barely carry it. Each week seems to add to the bounty as we fan out over Blount County to cover all the great things happening.

When retail stores are “overstocked,” what do they do? If they are serious about reducing inventory, they slash prices -- helping them clear their inventory and helping the customer get a good deal.

Being “overstocked” is not something you normally hear when referring to a newspaper. Why? Because most newspapers concentrate on covering the events of the past day, getting them all in the paper and moving on. If an event or happening is earmarked for a special section -- fashion, food, worship -- then it may hold a day or two, but that is usually the extent of things that get “held.”

Most newspapers avoid a serious inventory overstock by simply slashing away at what they have until it fits in the space allowed. Stories, photos, event coverage -- which is what makes up a newspaper’s “inventory” -- are simply slashed, condensed, briefed to get them in the paper, no matter how few pages are printed that day.

Blount Today, however, is NOT your typical newspaper. We take our commitment to community seriously and slashing the great things we want to share with you in our paper is always, always our last resort. I have a hard time doing it. I can do it, and it may come to the point where I must do it, but it doesn’t fit well with our Blount Today philosophy.

For example, I covered a Friends and Family Day at St. Paul AME Zion church back in late March. The youth choir was terrific, and I have pictures of them. The church members worked hard to put together an inspirational program, and I have pictures of them. The minister preached with heart and fire, and I have pictures of him. Give me a half or three-fourth page in Blount Today, and we will be able to share with our readers a great day in the life of St. Paul’s.

I have been trying since late March to find that half or three-quarters page. The disc is still in the BT bible. The church is patient.

The “normal” newspaper thing to do is pick one picture, run it with a caption telling a little about Friends and Family day and mark it off the list. There would then be room on the page for another “stand alone” photo -- say maybe of the Pinewood Derby -- and still have space for five to seven listings of Worship events. They would mark three off the list and only use one half-page of precious space.

It would also leave out 20 or so good photos of your children and neighbors that I really want to share with you.

So, welcome to my world. In every way, dear Readers, we are seriously “overstocked.” The economy hasn’t put a damper on all the happenings in Blount County, and Blount Today is keeping its commitment to bring you news, photos and information about those happenings.

What’s a publisher to do? Sink the budget and just open up the paper? Not if I want to stay employed. Stop showing up to cover events until we catch up? Not if I want to be true to our commitment to this community. Reduce what we have in print and put everything else on the website? Okay, that’s a possibility, especially since our website numbers keep increasing.

But before we do that, however, we are going to take a page from retail businesses. We are overstocked, so we are having an Inventory Reduction Sale. If we can increase our ad count, we can up our page count. And we can do it in a way that stays true to our belief that we should always offer value to our advertisers by combining their ads with the great stories and photos from our “inventory.”

For the next two weeks, we are reducing the price of our 1/8 page ads, putting four on a page, and filling the top half of each of those pages with a story or photo layout from our inventory. Every ad page will have the top half filled with things such as Pinewood Derby races, Heritage Center happenings, Townsend festivals, dance recitals, golf tournaments, school parties, community programs, political rallies, ground breakings, charity fundraisers and, yes, church Friends and Family days.

Look forward to the next two weeks. If things go according to my grand plan and our Blount County advertisers respond, you will have a plethora of both stories, photos and advertisements to enrich your weekends!

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