Big changes, big future


It’s a day of mixed emotions here at Hard Knox Wire. 

My original  partner in this venture, Cliff Hightower, is leaving.

I understand why he’s going. I get it. He was working two jobs, and he felt that he was losing sight of himself and what he loved about journalism. 

That’s fair.  But it doesn’t make this any easier.

Cliff is a smart guy, and a damn hard worker. Of the two of us, he’s the one who pretty much built and ran the actual website.  In fact, Cliff taught himself about building websites, paywalls and analytics over the last year in order to make this venture happen. He did that on top of simultaneously editing a daily paper roughly an hour’s drive north of here, which is quite a trick to pull. 

But what’s going through my mind right now is that, over the year that’s gone by since we decided we wanted to create a news site, is that we’ve become friends. And that it’s not going to be the same running this publication without my friend.

For two days or so last week, I doubted the ability of Hard Knox Wire to continue without his skills and experience, and it was two of the hardest days I’ve ever gotten through. But several friends — both journalists and those with no experience in the field — have graciously offered their help in making sure we can continue. Plus, I have a new partner who’s taking over the role of publisher, leaving me to concentrate on what I love — writing and editing. But more about them in a moment….

As I said, mixed emotions. On the one hand, Cliff is leaving. On the other hand, he’s leaving a publication that’s considerably stronger and better than it was when we started a little over a month ago. And I believe that we’re going to keep improving and growing, and as far as I’m concerned the sky’s the limit.

I’m sure you’ve got questions. I’ll try to anticipate the obvious ones, but if you want to know something that I don’t talk about here please send me an email. I’ll get back to you as quickly as possible. 

First, there will obviously be some changes, especially over the next week or two. We might scale back coverage a little bit — but not by much and not for long. There will still be new content each weekday, not to mention breaking news updates. But we clearly can’t do that forever with only half the staff, so we’re in the process of recruiting other reporters to help out ASAP. Look forward to some new bylines in the near future….

I don’t think the focus of Hard Knox Wire will change at this point. When Cliff decided to leave, we were still very much experimenting to find the right combination of content to appeal to you. That tweaking will continue. In this day and age, in fact, I’d guess that every publication on the internet does this all the time, anyway.

So, who is our new publisher? Her name is Jenna Stambaugh, and yes — she’s my wife. Although she’s not a professional journalist, she has published before, including here on Hard Knox Wire. You know that newsletter you get from us each morning? She’s been writing parts of that since we started, unrecognized but definitely not unappreciated. 

You’ll get to know her better in the near future. I think you’ll come to appreciate her work, and I think we’ll all benefit from the perspective she brings to Hard Knox Wire.

One more thing, and I’ll be done for now.  

Hard Knox Wire started publishing only a little over a month ago and we’ve already been successful beyond all our projections. Thousands of people have visited our web site, and quite a few of you decided to subscribe. You didn’t do this because of anything that we’ve accomplished thus far, because we haven’t been around long enough to have achieved much. You subscribed in order to give us — and local journalism — a chance. 

You decided to gamble some of your hard-earned cash to help us succeed as a business. I can’t tell you how much we appreciate your belief in us, and your trust. Our business plan is simple — take what we’ve earned, invest it back into our news site to make it better, and then hopefully attract more subscribers. We want to keep this cycle going for as long as possible, because we want to see just how good we can get. 

 But we can’t do any of it without your support. Thanks so much for reading Hard Knox Wire today, and we hope that you’ll be reading us again tomorrow and many, many days after that.

J.J. Stambaugh can be reached at

Published on March 29, 2021