2014-02-17 / Front Page

A MILESTONE

Ledger celebrates 120th anniversary
By TIM GULLA
Ledger Staff Writer


The Gaffney Ledger staff is pictured in this photograph from circa 1920. The Gaffney Ledger staff is pictured in this photograph from circa 1920. It may have moved four times in its history, and there’s no doubt the technology at its core is dramatically different, but some things haven’t changed at all for The Gaffney Ledger.

Publisher Cody Sossamon, representing the fourth generation of family ownership at The Ledger, says the newspaper remains as committed today as when it was founded to provide the residents of Cherokee County with something they can’t find elsewhere — news focused on Cherokee County, its institutions and leaders and its people.

First published on Feb. 16, 1894 as The Weekly Ledger after then 29-year-old Edward Hope DeCamp was lured from The State newspaper in Columbia by Gaffney businessmen to create a local paper, The Gaffney Ledger celebrated on Sunday its 120th anniversary serving residents of Gaffney, Blacksburg and all of Cherokee County.

“Tin Fever at King’s Mountain,” “A Farmer’s Advice to Farmers,” and “Failure at Rock Hill” were among the headlines in that first edition, which also warned in one crime-related story that “Several spies are here and more raids will likely be made.”

The “spies” were looking for “blind tigers” — apparently an older way of describing a speakeasy selling illegal alcohol.

In some ways appropriate given last week’s snowstorm, coverage of which began last Wednesday with the headline “Snowmageddon?,” the most dominant headline in the first edition of The Weekly Ledger blared, “Buffeted by a Blizzard.”

Luckily for residents of Gaffney at the time, the blizzard was striking Chicago but the editor and writers of The Weekly Ledger had a remarkable ability to grab attention to highlighted news of the nation with their vivid sub-headlines such as “The West in the Storm King’s Icy Grasp.”

Louis Sossamon, immediate past publisher of The Gaffney Ledger who represented the third generation of family ownership, says two things made working at The Gaffney Ledger a special experience — the people who worked here and the community itself.

“My enjoyment came from being associated with mighty fine people who presented the news to Cherokee County,” he said. “It was a pleasure to deal with them and serve the people of Cherokee County.”

And as far as Gaffney and Cherokee County are concerned, Louis Sossamon said, “You won’t find a better place in the world to live and I’ve traveled quite a bit. It’s just a wonderful atmosphere with a wonderful college and wonderful churches. I have observed over my years of life in Gaffney and Cherokee County, if someone is in need they will get personal attention from their friends and neighbors.”

Asked about his proudest moment from his years working at The Ledger, Sossamon can point to a plaque still hanging on the wall of his old office. In 1962, he was presented with the Freedom of Information Award by the South Carolina Press Association and the South Carolina AP News Council for his “meritorious contribution to the people’s right to know.”

He was the first newspaperman in South Carolina to ever receive such an award and the battle for the public’s “right to know” remains ongoing to this day.

Current publisher Cody Sossamon, who began working at The Ledger in 1976, said the current staff at The Ledger has nearly 400 years of combined newspaper experience based solely on their work experience with the Ledger and not counting any previous experience in the newspaper industry. Advertising Director Robert Martin is currently the longest tenured, with 42 years of experience here, followed closely behind by graphic artist Larry “Moose” Littlejohn with 40 years.

“To me it shows the loyalty people have to this newspaper,” he said of his staff’s longevity and experience. “They love what they do. Small newspapers as a whole are not known for their high-paying salaries. But I think we have a group of dedicated employees who care about their community.”

Laura Parker, The Ledger’s Lifestyles editor, will soon be celebrating 40 years at The Ledger.

“Working here has never been ‘a job’ from the first day I walked in the back doors and punched the time clock as a typesetter/proofreader at 7:30 a.m. on June 24, 1974,” she said. “I’ve had the honor and privilege to tell the stories of the folks in our community for the last 30 years, after I took over as Lifestyles Editor from Janet Spencer. If you were born, got engaged, got married, had a baby, had an anniversary – I’ve written about it and put it in the paper. Since I also ‘do’ the obituaries, if you die I write about that, too.”

Practically every thank-you note she has ever received she keeps in a box at home. “Some made me laugh,” she said of those notes. “Others made me cry because they were so heartfelt.”

Of all the things that have changed in the industry itself, technology has been at the forefront.

When Louis Sossamon was a youngster, type was being set letter by letter and placed in forms. That technology gave way to offset printing.

Investments by The Ledger in new technologies over the past two decades have led to an all-digital newsroom, where computers handle most of the chores before the printing plates are placed on The Ledger’s press.

In addition to its regular print editions, The Gaffney Ledger reaches readers through its website at www.gaffneyledger.com, through social media such as Facebook and most recently through Ledger Live which allows readers to access live and prerecorded broadcasts of select local sporting events, news events, parades and holiday celebrations.

“Every business has its challenges as time goes on,” Cody Sossamon said. “At one time, it was thought that radio would be put of out of business by television and obviously that hasn’t happened. We all adapt to new technology.”

Still serving its community after 120 years, Cody Sossamon believes there is a long future still ahead for The Gaffney Ledger because of what it is and what it represents.

“Community newspapers will always be viable,” he believes, “because they provide something you can’t get anywhere else. We not only provide the news of today, we’re also documenting the history of Cherokee County.”

Every issue of the The Gaffney Ledger dating back to 1894 is available on microfilm at the Cherokee County Public Library. Its digital archives dating to 2005 are searchable online.

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