The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.


                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.

The People News
Special Report






The People's Paper is 10!

by Alexandra Edwards

This month's edition of The People News is an extra special one, it will mark our 10th anniversary.

Every month for ten years  our  faithful columnists have volunteered their free time to bring to this community an alternative, more conservative view to local media.  Living up to it's motto of being "Dedicated to Tell What The Others Won't," The People News has gained many readers and much respect through its honesty and integrity in reporting  news which is often omitted by main stream media.

Editor/Publisher and husband, Pete Edwards decision to publish a newspaper came after local property rights  were being threatened by some very stringent zoning regulations proposed at meetings of the Bradley County Regional Planning Commission during 1996-7. Separate zoning worksessions had been arranged in order to implement county-wide zoning. The meetings, which included a couple of public hearings, had very little publicity, so attendance was minimal.  Pete and I, were in attendance of each meeting and became

Alexandra Edwards

concerned by the arrogance as well as the huge volume of rules and regulations that were being accumulated by the planning commission. We tried to alert the public by sending letters to the editor of the local daily newspaper, though printed, they were often edited . Pete also arranged to have a letter  hand delivered to then Governor, Don Sundquist but that was intercepted and then obtained by Bradley County Executive, Donna Hubbard, who was also secretary of the planning commission and an avid supporter of zoning the rural county. In desperation, we visited our state congressman, then Jim Duncan at his Athens office who suggested we attend various civic clubs in the community to inform the public. Not being a great public speaker, Pete thought of a better idea, which was to publish his own  newspaper.

Having had zero experience at publishing, Pete, an engineer by profession,  first determined what was needed to get started. He bought a computer, printer and scanner

and  then taught himself to type. Meanwhile, my contribution was to go get some ads to pay for the printing. Not having any sales experience, I managed to persuade ten local businesses to advertise. One of the first advertisers, local businessman Joe Kirkpatrick,  was also generous enough to offer to write for the newspaper and is still with us today.  Mel Griffith, now county commissioner, whom we had met during the zoning meetings, also agreed to write a column. June Griffin, a Rhea county resident who had taken her time to to come to Bradley County to help our citizens retain their property rights, showed  interest in writing a column. June's Son and his wife, JC and Stacy Griffin contributed to the newspaper with tales of old soldiers.  Bob Lacy, also of Rhea County submitted his first monthly column and  local resident Gene Norfleet wrote a quite controversial article about the Bradley County Sheriff's Department.  Pete somehow managed to put the 12 black and white pages together in our office in the spare bedroom of our home and in  February, 1998  the first edition of The People was created and hit the streets.

(The word 'News' was not added to the title of the paper until August, 1999).

With a circulation of just 4000 copies, the paper caused quite a stir and  it was not long before some local government officials attempted to shut it down by writing to our ten advertisers. However, most of the advertisers saw through the reason of the threats and continued to place their ads. A special thank you to Smalley's Shoe Repair who have continued to advertise on a regular basis, even though we misspelled their name in that very first issue. Also Tri-State Import continued their support.

During its ten years The People News added several more interesting columnists giving the paper a unique quality on a variety of subjects which include B.J. Armstrong (health column,) JC Bowman (Public Square,) Jennifer Bowman (JC's daughter) joined us with her column Jennifer's Corner seven years ago when she was just 12 years old. Jennifer's talents as a writer shone through more and more with each article during her growth to maturity. Toneeke Henderson's Realm of Reality  (mystical,) Ned Hickson (humorist,)  Jerry Keys (Sports,) Joel Lawler's -Matter of Faith (religion,) Pauline Murphy's - Feed Bag (recipes,) Cecil Owen (WWll Secrets,)  and Pettus Read's - Read All About It (farm and country talk.)

Most recently, The People News welcomed reporter/office assistant, Tonya Sprague to the staff who has proved to be a great asset, enabling more investigative reporting and wider coverage of local government meetings.

Though the writers and advertisers have been responsible for the success of the newspaper, it's also the many readers that contribute by sending  informative articles, jokes and letters that  give The People News its unique, conservative, home-town  quality.

Though it has chose to remain a monthly,  The People News has grown tremendously in popularity during its ten years. Today, with a circulation of 10,000 copies and a standardized 28 page format, which include 8 full color, the 'people's paper' which it is so often referred, can now be found in racks all over Bradley County and Ooltewah.

In 2003 the online edition was introduced and now draws thousands of readers from across the globe. Each issue from March 2003 has been archived on the website and all receive a high volume of traffic. The People News has been rated among the top twenty best newspapers in the USA by the Mondo Times global newspaper directory. This little paper has been listed alongside prominent publications like the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and  New York Times. To see the ratings for yourself go to:

During the ten years in publication we have seen many political changes locally. Some of our famous headlines included "Z Day" when countywide zoning was finally implemented, though in a much less restricted form than it was initially intended. "Walker-Gate" was another controversial headline involving massive construction problems and cost over-runs at the newly erected Walker Valley High School.

Another very exclusive report titled "McKenzie Faces Jail" also caused a stir when it exposed the judicial system as being biased toward  rich influential businessman Toby McKenzie arrested for a DUI offence. The People News were the only media to print the actual alcohol level in question after the Bradley Memorial Hospital had mysteriously mislaid the results and the tape of the preliminary hearing had somehow malfunctioned making it unusable.

In the ten years life of  this publication we have seen local elected officials come and go,with the exception of  a few like; Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland, County Commissioners Bill Ledford and Roy Smith and Property Assessor, Stanley Thompson. State senators and representatives have come and gone. Even the president of the United States has changed but The People News, well, it is still healthy, still conservative and still free to its readers.

Thank you all for being part of its success.