People ask me all the time: What really goes on behind the scenes at a newspaper?
Most people I have spoken to have this vision of bustling newsrooms filled with the sounds of ringing phones and clicking typewriters. They picture a grizzled editor sending hungry reporters out on assignments and a publisher who smokes cigars and has a bottle of bourbon stashed in his desk …
They envision mail carts, and reporters meeting with secret sources in darkened parking garages, and someone bursting in at the top of a metal staircase shouting “Stop the presses!” because the front page needs to be changed at the last minute.
Yeah … None of that happens.
The truth is, at The Sentinel-Progress, there’s no bustling newsroom — there’s just … me. I am the “newsroom.”
Now, that’s not to say I do the paper alone — I most certainly do not.
In total, four of us run this paper: Christine Wyatt, myself, Britt Wyatt and Rhonda Youngblood.
That’s it. (And before you ask … No, I’m not kidding. Four.)
Chris is the general manager and advertising director. Basically, she takes care of … everything. She makes sure the bills are paid, she makes sure our revenue stays in the black. She deals with all the icky managerial stuff that makes the paper work.
In short? She’s a rock star.
Me? I’m the managing editor — which means (since a reporter hasn’t been brought on since I was promoted) everything you read in this paper was either written — or edited — by me. Front page content? Me. Obituaries? That’s me. Photographs? Yup, you guessed it … Anything that says “Staff report?” Yeah, that’s me too — I just figured people would get sick of seeing my name on every. single. byline. in the paper. Mistakes? Yeah, that’s me too.
Britt Wyatt perhaps has one of the most important jobs as advertising sales representative. Basically, she sells the ads in the paper — which, in turn, pay for the paper. Contrary to popular belief, subscriptions don’t really generate that much revenue — it’s the ads. Without her, we’d be belly-up.
Rhonda has been at the paper … forever. (She is going to be so mad at me for writing that.) But we could not function without her. Rhonda answers the phones, enters all the classified and legal ads, prepares affidavits and handles the books. She also is my go-to person when I need to know where something is or when I’m trying to track down someone because she knows everybody in Pickens County.
Together, the four of us take on multiple job duties and community roles because we share a passion for this little paper. In a world where print journalism is being replaced left and right by online “blogs” — we are refusing to let The Sentinel-Progress be the latest casualty in small town newspapers.
I firmly believe every time a paper closes, the surrounding community loses something irreplaceable.
Frequently, a town’s newspaper is the oldest business in the area — such is the case with us. We’re older than the city of Pickens itself and with a start date of 1871, we remain the oldest business in the entire County. And that’s pretty cool.
But … so was The Cheraw Chronicle, which had been around since before The Civil War. So was The Herald Independent in Winnsboro. And yet, both papers were shut down.
They’re gone now, their banners lost — and it’s a tragedy.
It is my personal belief for a small town newspaper to survive, it has to do more than just deliver the news — it has to be a part of the community itself: Participate in and help sponsor local events, belong to the local Chamber of Commerce, volunteer to help with festivals and parades — we do all of that.
Let’s face it, on a news level we’re never going to be able to compete with the big daily newspapers. If something happens after deadline on Tuesday, the fastest I can get the story out in print would be Saturday, which makes it old news.
But what I can do is print photos of your grandson catching his first fish. I can write about the third grade class who set up a food drive. I can congratulate the business celebrating a 70-year anniversary or spread the word about a local charity needing donations.
In short? I can tell the story of the people — the friends and neighbors — that make up your hometown.
And you’re never going to find that in USA Today.
Kasie Strickland is the managing editor for The Sentinel-Progress and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not necessarily represent the newspaper’s opinion.