Mountain Times

Mountain Times is a weekly newspaper based in Boone, North Carolina covering Watauga, Ashe, Avery Counties.The newspaper placed first in 2000 and 2nd in 2002 in the National Newspaper Association's Better Newspaper Contest and 1st in the North Carolina Press Association's best website in 2003.

Founded in 1978 by Ken Ketchie and Ellen Foster (aka Misty Foster), the Mountain Times began life as the Sundown Times. As the Business Manager and co-founder, Ms. Foster started the advertising section of the paper and initiated the student internship program with Appalachian State University, a program which is still in existence today. It was through funding from Ms. Foster and her family that launched the Mountain Times. The first issues were created in Misty's living room in Blowing Rock. Ken Ketchie and several of the volunteers would drive the "draft paper" to the Lenoir News Topic to be printed and on a weekly basis it was distributed as a free paper to the local community.

Ken Ketchie would later sell the Mountain Times brand to Jones Media, owners of the Watauga Democrat, in 2002. Ken Ketchie in this process mis-represented his intentions to sell the paper. Ken Ketchie and Misty Foster were the original founders of the Sundown Times with Ken owning 51% and Misty owning 49%. They released a small amount of ownership stock to several other members including Noel Todd did receive a small payment upon the sale of the paper.

Ken and Misty first met while working at Catherine's Cheese house and restaurant in Blowing Rock in the summer of 1978. They had just finished school and working summer jobs. It was here that Ken approached Misty with the idea of creating a new paper. They met often during those summer months and developed the framework for what the paper is today. They understood that the Appalachian University students and the year-round visitors to the mountains were a missing audience. It was through their love of the community, the mountains, and a desire to incorporate unconnected groups and communities that spawned the Mountain Times. It was a combined idea that came together with a group of volunteers who had a passion and a vision.

In the beginning there were four members of the group with Ken and Misty as the founding members. Misty approached her roommate Noel Todd (McLaughlin)to join as editor and contributing writer. Noel's background was English and Communications while Misty's background was Industrial Arts, Advertising, and Marketing. Ken moved into the role of the entrepreneur and negotiated the leases, secured the equipment, and developed the business contracts. It was during these initial months that Ken and Misty formalized their agreement and level of ownership. When funding was needed Misty provided the initial $1,000 of seed money for launch. The funding allowed the Mountain Times acquire offices in Blowing Rock and purhcase their first IBM Selectric Typewriter. As often the case with start-ups, when money was tight, Ken would put the typewriter in the trunk of his car to avoid IBM collections at the door.

In less than a year, The Mountain Times started to become better known as a start-up and competition to the Watauga Democrat. It was a free paper with the local establishments and citizens anticipating the weekly paper. The paper published events in multiple counties, it included the ski resorts and schedules, all upcoming summer events including dates and locations, activities of the University including the local Boone and Blowing Rock news. It eventually expanded to include domestic news and published seasonal issues.

Six months into its creation, the paper required additional staffing. They needed writers, editors, artists, and volunteers for distribution. The paper continued to be printed in Lenoir every week as the Watauga Democrat turned down the request to print locally. It was during this time the Misty developed the idea of setting up an internship with the University and met with the President of the school to present the internship concept. The internship allowed students to receive up to 3 hours of credit in exchange for services rendered to the paper. It was a win for everyone and the paper started to take-off. Ken and Misty knew once the banks and local stores started to adverstise with the paper that they finally had broken through the stone-walling that had been occurring. The paper still known as the Sundown Times would change the name to the Mountain Times several years later.

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