Music/entertainment writer Wayne Bledsoe was laid off from The News Sentinel today. He's not gone. He'll still be at shows. He'll still be at Waynestock 8 shaking his butt to a bunch of talented local bands come February. But man, what a huge hit it is to Knoxville's scene that such a talented mouthpiece for music in East Tennessee will no longer be reporting from the platform of Knoxville's most circulated, most established newspaper.
There's already been an outpouring of support from folks involved in the scene in some way. "The local music and entertainment scene has been mortally wounded today," as Steve Wildsmith, Wayne's counterpart at Blount County's The Daily Times, put it. Concert photographer Bill Foster said, "[Wayne Bledsoe] has forgotten more about the history and culture of the East Tennessee music and arts scene than most of us will ever know." Wil Wright of Knoxville bands Senryu and Peak Physique added, "If you've played in a Knoxville band or enjoyed Knoxville bands in the past 30 years, you owe Wayne Bledsoe a big damn thank you."
The departure of Wayne Bledsoe from the Knoxville News Sentinel was not at all due to a lack of anything on his part. Wayne is one of the best in the business, and has faithfully and dutifully highlighted worthwhile music in Knoxville longer than many Knoxville musicians have been alive. He is able to tell the story of a band or concert in a compelling way that brings the reader in and gets them to care. He makes it look effortless. I'm here to tell you, it's not easy to do on a daily basis, but Wayne makes it look easy.
It certainly wasn't out lack of interest in local music coverage either, as evidenced by hundreds more comments of support on social media like the ones above.
This is of course symptomatic of a larger issue. Publications are consolidating their organizations, and the casualties have been a lot of really talented, engaged, plugged-in reporters and story tellers on the local level. The result is a product that is less expensive to produce. It's perhaps good for a company's bottom line, but it's bad for the culture, the heart and the soul of communities, and in this instance specifically, a local music scene. It's the Wal-Martification of local journalism. Moving forward, The Sentinel will likely have more stories about giant concerts at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena than album release shows at The Pilot Light. What a bummer.
So what now?
If Wayne's articles in the Knoxville News Sentinel and Go Knoxville were your go-to source for the why of Knoxville's music scene, here are some other places you can look. Steve Wildsmith at the aforementioned Daily Times is the most prolific and consistent music writer in East Tennessee, and few (if any) are better at so eloquently painting vivid pictures with their words. Rusty Odom, Luke Brogden, and a handful of others do a great job of covering the scene for Blank News, Knoxville's longest-running (btw, Happy 10-year anniversary, guys!) alternative paper, and you can find their physical copies on racks in local restaurants, bars, and other establishments as well as online. Knoxville Weekend is also ramping up their coverage of the local scene with more of a focus on video content and new media. Finally, (Self-plug warning!) KMW will continue to try its best to keep people informed of all the music in Knoxville worth knowing about. Thanks for everything, Wayne. Your words in the paper will be missed, and we'll all be looking out for whatever you create next. See ya out there.