Just about everyone who moves “from off” to the communities East of the Cooper has encountered a pleasant surprise. Once each week, a newspaper chock-full of local news, information, opinion and entertainment arrives on their doorstep – for free. This has been going on in Mount Pleasant, the Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island and Daniel Island for the past half century.
With its government and political articles, comprehensive school happenings and sports, recreation and other activities rosters and wildly popular and always humorous Police Blotter, the Moultrie, as it’s commonly known, has grown and matured from what began as little more than an advertising circular to become the newspaper of record for the nearly 90,000 people living east of the Cooper River.
According to Mount Pleasant Mayor Linda Page, The Moultrie News has always been an important part of the community.
“It’s how we keep in touch with our neighbors, advertise our businesses and applaud the accomplishments of our citizens. I think it is even more important today as the communities East of the Cooper grow,” she said.
News of the Moultrie’s 50th birthday has even reached the state capital in Columbia, where Gov. Nikki Haley observed, “We are excited to congratulate the Moultrie News as they celebrate their 50th anniversary. The service they provide for the people of East Cooper is so important, and the fact that they have been doing it for so long is a testament to their commitment and value to the community. Here’s to the next 50.”
In a 2014 media mix in which digital technology threatens to surpass the printed word, just how has this modest newspaper managed to grow and remain successful?
Editor Sully Witte, who took the job in 2007 and has held it longer than any of her predecessors, said that while “digital is becoming the new normal, and our Web presence is becoming a larger portion of our media mix, the print edition is still going strong. We can put a lot of our print product online, but there are still a great many people who like to hold a newspaper that they can read.”
Former Editor Bill Walker echoed her belief that while online newspapers may seem to be the way of the world today, “I like to put my hands on a newspaper, to fold it and do the crossword puzzle, to spill coffee on it! Like many other readers, I’m just old-fashioned, I guess.”
In Walker’s view, “It’s truly local news that’s the Moultrie’s bread and butter. Other media may cover the so-called ‘big stories,’ but people living East of the Cooper turn to their local newspaper for information about their child’s school’s honor roll, what civic organizations are raising money for which charities, how their area schools fared in athletic competition and so much more.”
“Local news is so important to the readers of the Moultrie News that an armed robbery on Coleman Boulevard can be seen as just as significant as armed conflict in the Middle East,” he added.
Another point that the two editors agree on is that the newspaper has always been very personal.
“Not a day goes by,” Witte said, “that we don’t get an idea from a reader about a loved one, a friend, a neighbor or just someone they have met who has an interesting story to tell. If it’s a good idea, we rarely turn it down.”
In Walker’s view, feedback is an essential component of the Moultrie’s success because “People want to be able to talk to the editor and the publisher. They want to feel that it’s their newspaper.”
The Moultrie News has been growing along with the communities of East Cooper, through tragedies such as Hurricane Hugo and triumphs such as Wando High School’s multiple academic and sports championships.
And, after 50 years of public service, it’s still free.
By: Bill Farley
All photos courtesy of the Moultrie News.