Off the cuff with former Moultrie News publisher

  • Wednesday, May 14, 2014



Last week, we sat down with former publisher Charlie Diggle and his wife Pat to learn about the newspaper's 50-year history.

This week, we look back at milestones and tid bits.

Did you know?

The Moultrie News has had several office locations over the years. In fact, the paper was located off of Ben Sawyer Boulevard twice, as well as Fairmont Avenue twice. An office was in Brookgreen once, Peach Orchard Plaza, The Common, James Island and North Charleston.

Changing times

There were many moments of contemplation about the newspaper, particularly when large family-owned drug stores began going out of business, as well as family-owned grocery stores like Doschers. Piggly Wiggly was coming on pretty strong.

“Pat and I were watching all of this as it transpired. We realized we were kind of on a sinking ship. With the daily paper taking in all of the large mega-chain advertising, we were worried we might not be able to compete. I think we timed it right by deciding to go ahead and sell,” Charlie told the Moultrie News in an interview about the newspaper's history. “They (Evening Post Publishing Company – now called Evening Post Industries) had a business plan and they were pursuing me. We could see the handwriting on the wall,” he added.

Who's who?

There was a wildly popular (or depending on your political standings, not so popular) columnist named Hungryneck Harry. He was a writer for the paper before the Diggles took over. Charlie said there was great speculation about who the writer was; some people speculated it was Dan Moon, a well-known radio personality. No one ever found out who he was.

But who was Malcom “Josh” Bridges? It was Charlie Diggle himself. The pen name came from the Cooper River Bridges. He wrote a column every week, often to the ire of readers who did not agree with whatever his position happened to be on an issue.

B.J. Hale was a well-known columnist for the Moultrie News. According to Charlie, he was a great writer and could write just about anything. “He had a good nose for news and contacts,” Charlie said.

Stylin' and profilin'

Through the years, the look of the paper has changed. Sometimes the design followed trends. Other times, the look was innovative and trend-setting. Charlie said the Moultrie News was one of the first papers to start running advertisements on the front page – which of course is now considered prime real estate.

Community events often appeared on the front page, but were later moved inside the paper, to encourage readers to read the entire paper.

Charlie and Pat say that looking back on the style of the page layouts, the look was ahead of its time.

Today, they are on an online calendar due to the sheer volume of events happening around town. There isn't enough room to include them all in print.

A byline is customarily included whenever a staff writer has a story printed. But that was often not the case in the early days of the Moultrie News. Often times, stories were written by Charlie Diggle himself due to the limited newsroom staff they employed. In the earlier days, Charlie served as reporter, sales manager, publisher and editor. “When you're a family business, everyone contributes,” said Pat. Many times, staffers wore multiple hats as well, from rolling papers to answering phones, she said.

Interesting to note

In the 1960s and 1970s, pageant queens were very popular and there was a queen for everything you could imagine. And readers loved it. Charlie would take the winner's photo and splash it across the front page.

The Moultrie News had many slogans. Today, the slogan is “Moultrie News – East Cooper's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1964.”

In 1976, it was “Moultrie News – The paper with the community spirit.” It was mailed to more than 7,000 homes at the time.

In those days, papers were placed in postal patron mailboxes. Charlie said the area was growing and the postal service was growing more expensive. Their regulations were also changing. The Moultrie News went to delivery shortly after that.

Many times, Charlie and Pat delivered the papers themselves. They owned a Volkswagon van and packed it from floor to ceiling with rolled papers and their three children.

The entire family worked for the Moultrie News at one point or another in their lives. Their three children, Diane, Chuck and Sam, all wore many hats, just like their parents. Chuck came on in 1982, delivering papers. By 1985, he had graduated from high school and was selling ads. He delved into writing stories, page layout and started the famous Police Blotter. In 1992, he was named editor.

Another slogan from 1977 was “Moultrie News – More than a decade of community service.”

By 1980, circulation had increased to 10,000 homes – which the Diggles said was an exciting milestone.

Just three years later, circulation had increased to 11,000.

In 1989, the slogan read “Moultrie News – Serving the community for 25 years.” Circulation numbers had grown to 12,000.

In 1992, circulation was at 15,000. The population in Mount Pleasant that year was 30,108. Sullivan's Island had a population of 1,623 and the Isle of Palms was at 3,680.

In 1989, Hurricane Hugo hit, but the press kept running after the Diggles had a generator shipped in. That generator was the only way they could even answer phones in their office. Their archives were lost, but the Carolinian Library at the University of South Carolina does have their own archives of the Moultrie News.

Charlie said that many story ideas came from sitting around the Krispy Kreme counter.

Every morning, Charlie would go for coffee and speak to these men who also came in to the shop. He describes them as the foundation of the community.

“That's where we got all the scoops,” he said.

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