DAVID BROWN: Andrews Journal merging with Cherokee Scout

   When driving east on the four-lane highway from Murphy or west coming from the Nantahala Gorge into Andrews, some of the best views in Cherokee County open before you. The charming small town sits at the feet of the Appalachian Mountains, and businesses and residents welcome everyone who comes their way.
    Everyone should love the area that’s often called Valleytown. When I was a student at Murphy High School, my best friend lived in Andrews, so I spent a lot of weekends there. Andrews is where I was baptized, where I was married and honeymooned, and where I’ve spent more vacation time than any other place. Today, I serve as vice president of the Andrews Chamber of Commerce and on the board of Four Square Community Action.
    The town is a special place, which becomes obvious the more time you spend in the Valley.
    However, like many areas, Andrews’ economy has suffered over the last three decades. Large businesses – including District Memorial Hospital, Outboard Motor Corp. and VF Clothing  – left town. Marble lost the Coats American plant, while Stanley Furniture closed in nearby Robbinsville. Other businesses have stepped up, but downtown also declined as the unemployment rate increased.
    For the last 59½ years, the Andrews Journal has chronicled the lives of local residents. However, the dwindling economy of the last decade has decreased the amount of space we could use to keep readers informed. Like all good businesses, what we can offer is based on economic growth. But we were determined to keep the Journal alive, even if we only broke even at the end of the year.
    As we near the end of 2018, finishing in the black is no longer an option. As a result, the newspaper’s staff has spent many hours discussing how we can best serve the Andrews Valley in the years to come. After weighing the options, we decided another year of finding creative ways to inform our readers in fewer pages than in years past was no longer the best course for anyone.
    That’s why starting Jan. 1, the Andrews Journal and Cherokee Scout, which has been serving local residents primarily west of Marble since 1889, will be merged into one newspaper geared for all of Cherokee County. This will bring the best of both newspapers to everyone.
    A merger will allow us to continue reporting all of the newsworthy things occurring in Andrews, only on a bigger platform. Instead of the Journal reaching about 3,300 readers, the merged Scout will reach as many as 18,040. Instead of as few as eight pages, the merged Scout will have 24-32.
    The merger will be a boom for advertisers. Instead of having to buy two advertisements to reach the entire county, businesses will only need one. We also hope this move will help boost the local economy by encouraging more people to shop closer to home.
    There are a lot of positives to your local newspapers joining forces. The biggest may be something well-respected community leader Glenn Tatum of Andrews told me several years ago.
    “Have you ever considered merging the Journal with the Scout?” he asked at a community event the newspapers were sponsoring.
    “Why do you ask?” I replied. “In the past when we brought up the idea, it wasn’t received enthusiastically.”
    “That was then,” Tatum said. “But today, businesses and people in Andrews need to have our light shine in Murphy, too. I think it would help bring the communities together.”
    His words have stayed with me, which is one reason why countywide unity has been a reoccurring theme on our opinion pages. Cherokee County will never be the best version of itself as long as people in Andrews and Murphy act like we’re on opposing sides; we can compete in sports and still treat each other like family.
    After hearing Tatum’s advice, we reached out to several other folks, like Andrews historian Kandy Barnard, to talk about the possibilities.
    At the end of each conversation, and after much thoughtful consideration and number crunching, we became more convinced that a merger makes the most sense in 2019.
    A lot of good things will happen for Scout readers starting Jan. 2:
    * If you subscribed to both newspapers, we will extend your Scout subscription by the same length of time your Journal subscription has remaining.
    * The Scout will include all the news from Valleytown that Murphy residents haven’t been reading over the last six decades.
    * Putting the Wildcats in the Scout will result in one of the best weekly sports sections in the state.
    Editor Matthew Osborne and I have made it our No. 1 goal next year to ensure that Andrews not only doesn’t receive less coverage in the Scout, but even more than you used to get in the Journal. Until we can hire a full-time reporter to replace the promoted Kelsey Richardson, freelance writer Samantha Sinclair will be holding down the fort.
    I know change isn’t easy. It never is. The Journal gave Andrews an identity of its own, and I hate to lose that.
    However, through this merger, you will be receiving a better, more comprehensive newspaper. Advertisers will have a more complete, countywide reach. You’ll never miss another newsworthy event just because it happened on the other end of the county.
    While the bigger, better Scout is going to $1 per copy next month, that’s still 50 cents less than buying both newspapers costs today. And with a subscription, you can have the Scout delivered to your mailbox countywide for only 58 cents a week.
    The merged Scout will be a one-stop spot for all the news you need from Andrews, Brasstown, Culberson, Hanging Dog, Hiwassee Dam, Marble, Murphy, Nantahala, Ranger, Topton and all the communities in between. Most of us know folks from one end the county line to the other, and putting everything important in one newspaper for the entire family will showcase the very best that Cherokee County has to offer.
    Thanks for reading.
    David Brown is publisher of the Cherokee Scout. You can reach him by phone, 837-5122; fax, 837-5832; email, dbrown@cherokeescout.com; or message him on Twitter @daviddBstroh.