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New News?

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A new news-media outlet appeared on the Memphis horizon last week, and while details are scanty, the new venture is arming itself with big-name, well-loved, heavy-duty talent.

Sources confirmed last week that a new venture is, indeed, in the works. However, what the venture looks like — is it a new newspaper or an online news source? — remains unknown. Those sources did say that the new project is borne from a group of Memphians frustrated at the decline of The Commercial Appeal under its Gannett Co. ownership.

The news broke on the Smart City Memphis blog Thursday. A post there read that the new venture seemed to stem from "an aggressively expanding [The] Memphis Daily News." However, sources said the new venture is not an outgrowth of that newspaper.

Eric Barnes, publisher of The Memphis Daily News, said he could not comment on the situation.

But three of The Commercial Appeal's most-recognized names — sports columnist Geoff Calkins, food writer Jennifer Biggs, and The 9:01 columnist (and former Memphis Flyer writer) Chris Herrington — all announced last week they were leaving the paper.

A Sunday piece in The CA from executive editor Mark Russell said the three were leaving "to pursue other journalism opportunities in Memphis."

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The three confirmed their departures, although by different media, but all left specifics of their new employer a mystery. Calkins said in a weekend Facebook post, "I'm not leaving Memphis. I'm not leaving journalism in Memphis."

"I'm going to be writing for a Memphis enterprise written by Memphians for Memphians," he wrote.

Biggs said in a Monday column online that while she's leaving, she hoped "that you'll stick with The Commercial Appeal" and the "hardworking people" bringing you local news.

"I have a plan and will be back in print before long, doing much the same thing I've done all these years," Biggs wrote in a Facebook post. "Until then, I'll be right here and when I can tell you what's coming, I'll do it."

Herrington delivered the news of his parting on his personal blog, "Sing All Kinds," saying "I lament the paper's shift toward being a corporate cog in a Nashville-centric Tennessee network."

"I'll re-emerge later this summer, writing about many of the same topics in many of the same ways, but in different formats and at different frequencies," he said.

The Smart City Memphis blog echoed Herrington's thoughts on The CA under Gannett noting "that [Gannett] has, in only three years, eviscerated even those fond memories of a time when [the newspaper] mattered so much to the Memphis region."

However, Russell said Sunday the paper is holding strong.

"Despite the exits, The CA newsroom is still home to some of this region's best journalists, covering, among other areas, music, government, education, commercial real estate, logistics, the Grizzlies, Tigers basketball and football and high school sports," he wrote. "The folks in our newsroom are committed to Memphis and to writing with authority and context — about the issues and topics that are important to this area."

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