"The recent disasters on the waters have conclusively proved the advantages of the art of swimming."
No, this is not an editorial statement made in The Press-Sentinel during the last few years. It was, however, a statement made in the local newspaper on Sept. 22 ... 1880.
The times may change, but the issues remain the same. And throughout that time, faithfully chronicling the events and happenings in Wayne County, has been the hometown newspaper.
It started with the Jesup Sentinel way back at the time of the Civil War. Almost 100 years later competition came in the Wayne County Press. The two came together in 1977 to form The Press-Sentinel.
The content of some of these early editions was mostly advertisements from neighboring towns, such as Hazlehurst, Blackshear and Brunswick, for attorney services, medicines and dentists. These early editors picked up news items all the way from Texas, and even overseas. There were plenty of political announcements to be made as well. News from neighboring correspondents even dates back as far as 1900, when the Jesup Sentinel contained Odum, Screven, Gomez and Red Hill items. These included who visited whom, who was sick that week and what happened at a particular church service.
News items in these old editions were printed column per column, with only advertisements spreading as wide as two columns. Life appeared to be quite simple during these infant days of the newspaper, only requiring about four pages to get all the important information out to the public.
But as the years go by and life becomes more and more complex, so comes the need for more space. Even before the Wayne County Press came to town, several other competitors to the Sentinel such as The Jesup Georgian, the Wayne County News and the Wayne County Progress came and went.
The original offices of the Sentinel were in the Jesup House, fronting on Cherry Street, two doors from Broad Street, according to that same 1880 relic. A fire in 1926 destroyed some old records and so much of the early history of the paper remains a mystery. The recorded owner of the paper is T.P. Littlefield, who sold it in 1887.
The Sentinel changed ownership several times through the first half of the 20th century. It was W.B. Rhoden, who purchased the paper in 1950, who moved the offices to its present location on Walnut Street. This is where the first Goss Community offset press in Southeast Georgia was installed.
Dr. Lanier Harrell and Norris Strickland actually brought offset printing to Wayne County with the Press in 1961. Elliott Brack served as editor and publisher of the Press from 1962-1974. Joining The Press in 1971 was W.H. "Dink" NeSmith. It would be Mr. NeSmith Jr. who spearheaded the merging of The Sentinel and The Press in 1976.
With the combining of these two successful publications, Wayne County citizens began enjoying their paper twice a week beginning in February of 1977. For over the past 20 years, the changes in the look of the offices of The Press-Sentinel, along with the product itself, have come at a rapid pace.
Above everything else, the goal of The Press-Sentinel has been to report on the people and events of Wayne County. Readers can still find out who is doing what in the small communities scattered throughout the county as well as the decisions being made by elected officials that will affect their lives.
For a long time, piecing together the parts that make the newspaper have been like putting together your own jigsaw puzzle...literally. Every story, headline, photograph and advertisement had to be physically pieced together on a broadsheet for printing. The task of the newswriter has become a bit easier with the switch from the old-fashioned typewriter to the personal computer.
The 1990s alone has seen dramatic changes, brought on by new technology, in just the way this paper is put together, allowing the news and composition staffs to actually meet its deadlines. With the exception of advertisements, all of the aforementioned puzzle pieces come together in one central computer in a process known as pagination. The whole news page comes to life on the screen before it hits the printing press.
The Sentinel office still has a darkroom, but even that has become obsolete with the addition of film negative scanners that allow the paper to bring color photographs to the people.
Be it the 1890s or the 1990s, the paper is not finished until it is rolled off the printing press, and Wayne County is fortunate to have its own in order to bring the public its news on time. Several area newspapers utilize The P-S web press services, which brings more revenue to our community.
Mr. NeSmith, who became sole owner of The P-S in 1983 as part of his Community Newspaper Inc., still serves as chairman of the board. Eric Denty became a partner and president of the newspaper in 1997. Behind their leadership, The P-S hopes to continue its commitment to bringing the important news about Wayne County to Wayne County.