The revelation was at first surprising and then disappointing. So I’ll take a stab here at shedding some light on the surprising part, which hopefully will also mollify the disappointing part.
As anyone who reads The Smoky Mountain News knows, I like to write about media. My fascination with the press and how it reflects society and influences change steered me toward this career path in the first place. My obsession with the subject has been lifelong and unwavering.
For those who don’t know, the owners of this newspaper — with the help of another local investor — bought Smoky Mountain Living magazine exactly four years ago, in March 2008. Maggie Valley entrepreneurs Wade and Beth Reece started the magazine 12 years ago. After Wade passed away in 2006, Beth kept SML going strong for two more years before deciding to sell.
I had always liked the magazine and thought it had great potential to become an important venue for writing about the culture, arts and lifestyle of this region. Wade and Beth had assembled a talented stable of free lancers, and the magazine was good enough to get picked up for national distribution by a company that’s a subsidiary of Conde Nast and Hearst corporations.
CMG is the largest newsstand magazine distributor in the country, handling such titles as Newsweek, TV Guide and National Review, just to name a few. Because of CMG’s reach, SML can be purchased at bookstores, retail chains and even grocery stores throughout the country. We inherited that national distribution agreement when we purchased Smoky Mountain Living.
And that’s one of the cool things about the magazine. It takes our story of life in these mountains to the entire nation. That’s powerful.
But back to the surprise that led to this column. A month or so ago I was talking to someone active in the Western North Carolina community, a well-read man whom I admire. As our conversation weaved through several topics, I was surprised to learn that he had never heard of Smoky Mountain Living magazine. And that’s when the disappointment set in. For four years we’ve been slogging away at producing a quality magazine and still many local people have never heard of it
Hence this column. Smoky Mountain Living has subscribers and readers from all over the country, people who either have connections to this region or simply want to read about this place we call home. But in this region, it seems our competitors — good magazines like WNC and The Laurel — have done a better job of marketing themselves locally.
So the task I’ve put before our staff and myself over the next six months is to get Smoky Mountain Living in front of people in this region. Hopefully you’ll be seeing the magazine around retail shops and other businesses who have subscriptions. Perhaps you’ll hear about it on radio. If you want to buy a year’s subscription — six issues — for $25, call 828.452.2251 or visit our website at www.smliv.com.
Naturally, I think our magazine is a better read than what our competitors are producing. We work hard to incorporate stories that are meaningful, interesting and fun. The staff includes many of same people who work at SMN, along with a long list of the best free-lance writers in this region. Like our philosophy at SMN, we try to go a little deeper into subjects than our competitors tend to do.
Our editor, Sarah E. Kucharski, was raised in Jackson County and worked at SMN for years before taking over at the magazine. Here’s her description of what Smoky Mountain Living is all about: “This magazine is rooted in the mountains, and I never want to lose sight of that. Smoky Mountain Living is not just for those who claim residence in the mountains by address — many of our readers don’t live in the mountains at all. Rather, Smoky Mountain Living is for those who claim the mountains as part of their character, part of their soul. It’s my responsibility to respect and embrace that in a way that appeals to both those who are from here and those who visit here.”
So that’s our pitch. Give the magazine a read, buy a subscription. If you have a friend or family member who lives out of the area but wants to stay connected, send them a subscription. You won’t regret the investment.