Veteran Journalist Launches Newspaper
By Jack Criss
A longtime newspaper journalist has brought local news back to a Delta community that had been without a newspaper since October, 2020. Ted Evanoff is the Editor and Publisher of the new Tunica Voice, a weekly paper that was launched in April of this year. His wife, Abbay Evanoff, serves as Associate Publisher.
“Tunica County residents have not had a local newspaper since The Tunica Times was closed in October 2020 amid the pandemic after 116 years in business,” says Evanoff. “Abbay and I felt the timing was right and, after much careful thought and deliberation—as well as conducting a feasibility study on the business— we decided to go forward with publishing the Tunica Voice with the goals of being fair, inclusive, factual, curious—and a true community paper that our citizens could gain information from and be proud of.”
Evanoff, who has held lengthy stints at, among other prominent newspapers, the Memphis Commercial Appeal and the Detroit Free Press, says that over a 1000 copies of the Tunica Voice will be printed weekly, usually averaging eight pages in length, and that the paper will be sold on newstands, in racks and through subscriptions.
“We will regularly publish school news, church news, business news, human-interest stories and obituaries priced reasonably, as well as classified and legal ads and reports about the Tunica Town Board of Alderman and the Tunica County Board of Supervisors,” says Evanoff. “And while we’re calling this a ‘soft launch,’ we have seen a positive response thus far and plan on growing and branching out as a true ‘voice’ for this town and community.
We’re also looking at forming businesses behind the newspaper which will serve our mission and sustain the business model, as well as have a group of local residents who will provide us with insight and ideas called the Tunica Voice Editorial Board,” adds Evanoff. “It will meet regularly and will act as the voice of the newspaper—a voice of reason, I might add—and, hopefully, the voice of the entire community.”
Evanoff said he bought The Tunica Times mailing list and recently sent out complimentary copies to those on it along with an option to subscribe and a letter explaining the new paper’s mission.
“I will be asking a separate group of readers to sit down and tell me every few weeks whether the news reporting has been fair, inclusive, factual,” adds Evanoff. “This particular group will be called the Tunica Voice Reader Advisory Panel and will know, and tell us, when the paper’s news stories have been wide of the mark or on point. This group will also be hosting community forums; lots of them, hopefully. The reader advisory panel, which we’re calling Friends of the Tunica Voice, will pick the topics, ones of relevance and significance to our area.”
The new paper will, of course, accept advertising and, editorially, will focus more on news features and analysis, along with photographs and community information. “We just hired an advertising director,” says Evanoff, “and so we’ll be focusing more on that aspect, of course, and certainly encourage interested parties and businesses to contact us for more information on advertising.”
Evanoff also wants to use the Tunica Voice as a springboard to launch a proposed journalism club in Tunica. “I would mentor Rosa Fort and Tunica Academy students,” he says. Then, their student journalism would appear in the Tunica Voice’s school news section. We also will host student podcasts in the future.”
From his debut edition, Evanoff wrote the following about his mindset in launching the Tunica Voice: “Here’s something I need to say. American newspapers struggle. When I hired on three decades ago, the Memphis Commercial Appeal employed nearly 1,500 people, including 250 in the newsroom. Fewer than fifty staffed the newsroom when I resigned last year. Newsrooms throughout the nation have been gutted as social media enthralled advertisers. Newspapers need new ways to make money. That’s the idea behind Friends of the Tunica Voice. Part of the donations to FOTV would flow to the Tunica Voice, particularly to buy advertising to help pay for our journalism.”
“I couldn’t be happier to see Tunica now having a new, locally-owned paper up and running,” says Layne Bruce, Executive Director of the Mississippi Press Association in Jackson. “I congratulate Ted, Abbay and his staff in taking this positive step for their community, and for the state, in launching the Tunica Voice.”
“My wife and I go to church here, have lived here and have always had strong ties to Tunica,” summarizes Evanoff. “There’s still a place, a need and a desire for local print—I believe that wholeheartedly—and we’re honored and excited to bring a newspaper back to this great community.”
For more information on the Tunica Voice, visit tunicavoice.com.