In Charleston, local ownership means fewer layoffs

April 10, 2019

This piece originally appeared in Local Edition, our newsletter following the digital transformation of local news. Want to be part of the conversation? You can subscribe here

Mitch Pugh gets a bit sheepish when asked how much smaller The (Charleston, South Carolina) Post and Courier is now than it used to be.

That’s because it hasn’t been hit with the same relentless waves of layoffs as other local newsrooms.

“At worst, we’re one or two people lighter than we were six years ago,” said Pugh, executive editor.

He lists a few reasons that they’re lighter, including attrition on the copy desk and rehiring the three or four people who were laid off due to newsprint tariffs. His reason the paper’s staff is the roughly same size: Local ownership.

Mitch spoke with me about how The Post and Courier grew its digital subscriptions by 250%. He thinks local ownership is a critical piece of that success. In the next six months, the newspaper, which is owned by Evening Post Industries, is planning to add 14 journalists to the newsroom.

In 2015, Poynter’s Rick Edmonds wrote a story with this headline: “Post and Courier shows that family-owned newspapers can still work.” It is locally owned, but not run by the family, Edmonds wrote, rather professional managers. Also, he pointed out, the company has diverse revenue streams including from 10 other South Carolina newspapers and 11 TV stations in seven different states.

“When I hear people say that you can’t make it work in local news, that really irritates me,” Pugh said. “You can if you have the right expertise, you’re willing to accept a small profit and you’re tied to the community. You can do it.”

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