What is the SC Daily Gazette? A free, online news outlet on a mission.
Meet the South Carolina Daily Gazette staff: Senior reporter Jessica Holdman, Editor Seanna Adcox, and reporters Skylar Laird and Abraham Kenmore. (Bill Meacham / Special to the SC Daily Gazette)
Welcome to the South Carolina Daily Gazette and a column 291 years in the making.
Well, that’s obviously hyperbole. We’re brand new.
But our name truly dates to 1732.
I wanted our name to reflect South Carolina’s history and uniqueness. Hopefully, it will also hint at the future success of not only our outlet but a new path forward for an industry I believe is crucial for a functioning democracy.
More than 1,600 newspapers have been founded in the Palmetto State since 1732. At the beginning of this century, newspapers’ combined circulation was nearly 991,000 with a readership of about 2.4 million, according to the South Carolina Encyclopedia.
I’m sure both numbers have shrunk considerably since. Population isn’t the problem. South Carolina is one of the nation’s fastest-growing states. The problem is shrinking and shuttered newsrooms.
While visiting with friends last weekend in Marlboro County, we lamented the loss of news options in rural South Carolina. On the way back to Columbia, I couldn’t help but drive by the building that used to house The Cheraw Chronicle, my first reporting job out of college in 1996. It was depressing. The weekly paper ceased to exist in 2005 after a 109-year run.
The Fort Mill Times, my second job, published its final edition in 2020 after 128 years. The (Rock Hill) Herald was next in my career, back when the newspaper seriously competed against The Charlotte Observer for York County news. The Herald operation is a shell of itself now. The downtown building that for decades housed the newsroom and printing press was demolished a year ago.
When I got to the Statehouse in 2005 (job six, if you’re wondering), the press room was packed. Granted, that doesn’t take much. The windowless space is small. But the press corps that once spilled out has dwindled not only in the number of reporters but entire news outlets that no longer cover the Legislature.
The Associated Press, thankfully, is among those still there. But even that venerable news cooperative has shrunk drastically. In 2005, its South Carolina newsroom had its own bureau chief, news editor, breaking news supervisor, editorial assistant, and photographer — all positions cut years ago. And there were enough reporters to divvy up beats. Oh, the good ol’ days. Outside of a few home offices, there is no AP newsroom in South Carolina anymore.
Enter the South Carolina Daily Gazette.
Why the Gazette?
But first, let me tell you more about our namesake.
The South-Carolina Gazette was launched in January 1732 by Thomas Whitmarsh, the first of Benjamin Franklin’s three business partners in the Charleston printing venture.
It wasn’t South Carolina’s first newspaper. That title belongs to the South-Carolina Weekly Journal, also printed in Charleston. But it was short-lived before its owner died of yellow fever, and no one carried on that publication.
The Gazette started shortly after the Journal and survived the death of two publishers to become South Carolina’s first successful newspaper, continuing with a few hiccups for more than 40 years.
In January 1739, it also became the first newspaper in the American colonies to be edited and published by a woman.
Amsterdam-born Elizabeth Timothy was a superwoman by any standard.
When her husband, publisher Lewis Timothy, died of an “unhappy accident” — as she described in her first edition — she was left a single mother of six children with a seventh on the way.
Knowing the fates of Charleston’s first two publishers (Whitmarsh also died of yellow fever), Lewis Timothy had written into his contract with Franklin that his eldest son would take over if he died. But Peter was just 13 when that happened.
So, Elizabeth took over. Because she was a woman, she had to list Peter Timothy as the official publisher. However, she made clear in the paper itself that she was in charge.
“I take this Opportunity of informing the Publick that I shall continue the said Paper as usual and hope, by the Assistance of my Friends, to make it as entertaining and correct as may be reasonably expected,” she wrote in an article announcing her takeover. She also urged subscribers to continue supporting the “poor, afflicted widow.”
They did. A year later, she bought out Franklin’s investment interests.
That also made her the first woman in America to own a newspaper, which expanded in the seven years she ran it to include poetry and international news. In his autobiography, Franklin praised her business sense over her late husband’s.
When Peter Timothy did take charge in 1746 at age 21, she opened a book and stationery store next door. (Her trailblazing is recognized as an inductee in both the South Carolina Press Association Hall of Fame and the South Carolina Business Hall of Fame.)
The Gazette went on to be South Carolina’s best-known newspaper until publication ceased with the American Revolution. Peter Timothy, who stayed in contact with Franklin and fellow Founding Father Samuel Adams, was a vocal patriot. After Charleston fell to the British in 1780, Timothy was shipped to St. Augustine, Florida, for 10 months in prison.
Fast forward nearly two and a half centuries, and newspapers need help to survive — not just in South Carolina but across the country.
Since 2005, more than a fourth of newspapers nationwide have disappeared. The number of journalists has fallen from 75,000 in 2005 to 31,400 in 2021, according to The State of Local News’ 2022 report.
That means nearly 44,000 fewer people — and undoubtedly fewer still since that report — paying attention to government at all levels, from school boards to the White House. Those left often don’t have the time to dig into what elected officials are doing.
States Newsroom was founded in neighboring North Carolina to help fill those gaps in state government coverage.
Our outlet is No. 37 in that mission.
I won’t pretend or claim that we can “turn the Titanic around” (to borrow from Amy Grant).
But we can help — and hopefully offer a winning model for keeping readers informed with reliable, unbiased news.
We’re starting with a team of four award-winning reporters whose coverage is free to both readers and other news outlets. We are a public service. Our articles can be read and reprinted without subscriptions or memberships. There are no paywalls or annoying pop-up ads.
So, please spread the word. And keep coming back to read more. We want to tell the stories that matter to South Carolinians.
We rely on donations from grants and individuals who support our mission. And we’re transparent about it — really. A list of donors who’ve given more than $1,000 since States Newsroom launched as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2019 is available online.
While the Gazette is under the States Newsroom’s umbrella, we are an independent online news outlet.
We are not controlled or dictated to by people outside South Carolina. That independence included coming up with this outlet’s name and signing off on the logo. The two fonts double underlined reflect our namesake’s masthead. The color, of course, is our state color indigo blue.
I’m no Elizabeth Timothy, though I do hope her success rubs off. I’m just a proud Williston-Elko Blue Devil and Winthrop Eagle who believes the success of my home state depends on South Carolinians knowing what officials are (or aren’t) doing for them and with their money.
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