For 100 years, history on a deadline

By CHRIS TRAINOR
Posted 2/6/19

Editor's note: This Oct. 15, 2019, The Sumter Item will celebrate its 125th anniversary. The Greenwood Index-Journal, The Charleston Post and Courier and The Sumter Item are the only three remaining independently owned daily newspapers in South …

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For 100 years, history on a deadline

Posted

Editor's note: This Oct. 15, 2019, The Sumter Item will celebrate its 125th anniversary. The Greenwood Index-Journal, The Charleston Post and Courier and The Sumter Item are the only three remaining independently owned daily newspapers in South Carolina. This column was published Sunday in the Index-Journal.

We should all hope to look so good at 100.

As you're likely aware if you've been reading the Index-Journal for the last several weeks, this newspaper is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. In fact, it will officially mark 100 years this coming Wednesday.

I don't have to tell you how rare it is for a local business to make it to 100. It's an incredible number, actually. Think about all that has happened - in the Greenwood area, in the state of South Carolina, in our nation and world, and, certainly, within the newspaper industry and general media landscape - since 1919. A piece of James Earl Jones' stirring speech from "Field of Dreams" comes to mind: "America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again." But across those 10 decades, for the residents of Greenwood and all of the communities of the Lakelands, the Index has remained constant. History on a deadline, and all of that.

I'll let you in on a little secret here on this Sunday morning: Just about all I ever wanted to do was be a part of the Index-Journal. And I can say, being associated with the paper - in one way or another - for the last 15 years has been, without hyperbole, one of the greatest privileges of my life.

I can remember years ago, not long after I first wormed my way onto the paper in the sports department - it took a year of freelancing and answering nighttime telephone calls from JV girls basketball coaches before Editor Richard Whiting would offer me a full-time gig - Greg Deal (during his first tour of duty at the IJ) assessed the prospects of my then-nascent career at the Index: "You're going to be a lifer."

Sounded good to me.

Like many from the Lakelands, I grew up reading the Index-Journal. My mom and dad were subscribers throughout my childhood and remain so to this day. The Index was an afternoon paper when I was young. The concept of a newspaper being published and delivered in the afternoon or early evening is one that has, by now, been nearly forgotten, but in the old days it was quite common.

A highlight of my day when I was a kid was grabbing the Index out of the mailbox as soon as it was delivered. I'd be in our den watching cartoons, or maybe on the driveway shooting basketball, when I'd hear the delivery driver coming around the corner. Let me tell you, the lady who delivered the Index-Journal to our house drove like a bat out of hell. I mean, she drove it like she stole it.

As soon as she'd throw the paper in the box, I'd be right there to grab it and dig in. Keep in mind, there was no internet, no Twitter, no Google. The 24-hour news cycle on cable TV hadn't even really taken hold yet. This - the Index-Journal newspaper - was the news, and I devoured it. The crime stories, the politics, the movie ads, the comics, the TV listings and, of course, the sports page. (Love ya, Jim Joyce.)

The idea that I might ever get a chance to work there, to have my puny words appear in its hallowed pages, to walk those halls on Phoenix Street where giants walked - newsmen, by God - seemed like some sort of dream. I thank the Lord it's one dream I had the chance to live out. In the context of the 100 years of this paper, my contributions have been but a pebble tossed in a great, teeming ocean, but I'm so thankful I've had a chance to toss that pebble, nevertheless.

As the Index prepares to hit 100, I want to extend heartfelt congratulations most especially to the paper's publisher for the last 21 years, Judi Burns, someone who I've long considered a mentor and a friend. She's family, really. Former associate editor Scott Bryan and I used to call her "Mama," and it wasn't far off. Judi's faithful guidance of the Index-Journal - like her father and mother before her - has been a benefit to this community, far beyond what many could even comprehend. She has been our lodestar, and it is more than fitting that it is she who guides this paper to the 100-year mark, and beyond.

Here's to the next 100, Judi.

Chris Trainor is a contributing columnist for the Index-Journal. Contact him at ChrisTrainorSC@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisTrainorSC. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.