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Keeping our eyes on the prize

01) Ralph Editorial

Three months are in the books for yours truly as the editor of the Summerville Journal Scene, Berkeley Independent and Goose Creek Gazette. And as a grizzled veteran in the journalism game, a lot of what’s happening in my new environment is old hat when it comes to reporting news at a community level.

But whereas I was the lone wolf spinning plates at my previous stop in North Dakota, I have a great editorial staff here at Summerville Communications, composed of dedicated, full-time reporters who aren’t afraid to put in the necessary grind to churn out a quality product.

What I didn’t realize when I first arrived here was how large our coverage territories are when you factor in the distance between Downtown Summerville, Goose Creek, Moncks Corner and all the surrounding areas in between. I remember covering my first Town Council meeting in Monks Corner and how it took me about 40 minutes to get to "The Lowcountry’s Hometown.”

What I also learned is how the three communities differ from one another, with Summerville being the more cosmopolitan town with loads of transplants and immaculate scenery. Goose Creek, on the other hand, has its own mix of people from other countries and states, many of whom carry a fierce pride for their city, as evidenced by the packed houses you’ll see at most local government meetings.

Meanwhile, Moncks Corner seems to be in its own category when it comes to its old-world charm and hospitality. In truth, it really comes closest to what I envisioned before moving to the deep south, as the country accents are a little deeper and the genuineness of the townspeople is just as noteworthy. The Moncks Corner crowd doesn’t hem and haw or pour on flowery double-speak — they serve their thoughts quick and easy like scrambled eggs with buttermilk biscuits.

As soon as I grew somewhat familiar with the lay of the land, my focus was to ensure that every community is properly represented. As such, my weekly goal is to make certain that each of the papers don’t look like carbon copies of one another.

To that end, we realize our limitations compared to the big metro rags. It’s a few people taking on a lot of news with just a few days to dress it up and package it for the new week. I mean, do I wish we had more time to engage in magazine-style reporting, where we go to multiple sites and talk to 10 sources for in-depth pieces? Yeah, but that’s not reality.

My goal is to physically get out as much as I can to not only meet the play makers (mayors, city commissioners, etc.), but also to make the acquaintance of the community stakeholders. A lot of these residents have been here since Ford Pintos and Cutlass Supremes were commonly roaming the streets — and some have been around longer than that. And so, it is my pleasure and duty to engage these individuals as often as I can to gain much-needed perspective on what happened in these parts before I stumbled into town on a muggy June afternoon.

Thus far, Summerville historian Ed West has been a great resource, as has Diane Frankenberger of People, Places and Quilts. Similarly, Keith Gourdin of Moncks Corner has been invaluable in issuing his research and knowledge of past events dating back to the American Revolutionary War, all of which is often featured in the Berkeley Independent.

There’s still much work to be done going forward in terms of establishing better relationships with the law enforcement agencies and local schools, but we’re collectively putting our noses to the grindstone to elevate local newspaper coverage.

But of course, this is your paper and we want to hear from our readership about where we’re getting it right and where we’re lacking.

Further, I don’t thumb my nose at any fundraiser, beach cleanup or dog adoption event, if it’s happening in the community, it’s news, the type of news you won’t get anywhere else.

So, in case you think your issue or happening isn’t worthy of coverage, try me. Unlike most New Yorkers, I don’t proclaim to know it all. I’m here to learn.

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