Publisher of Packet and Gazette to also lead The State in Columbia

info@islandpacket.comFebruary 5, 2014 

Sara Johnson Borton, publisher of The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette, was named publisher of The State newspaper in Columbia on Wednesday morning.

Borton, 55, will continue to lead the Packet and Gazette when she begins her new role at The State on Feb. 10.

"The connections between the Lowcountry and The State newspaper go back to the late 1800s, when two progressive journalists born in the Lowcountry -- brothers N.G. Gonzales and Ambrose E. Gonzales -- founded The State," Borton said. "They crusaded for various reforms and their work brought about profound change for the good of South Carolina.

"I'll continue to support energetic and fair news coverage -- the kind that has distinguished The State, The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette over the years," she said. "At the same time, our newspapers will seek to be good corporate citizens in each of the communities we serve."

Borton will continue to have her home on Hilton Head Island, but she will live part time in Columbia.

"The Lowcountry is where I've worked since 1983; it will always be the place I call home," she said.

The McClatchy Company's vice president for operations, Mark Zieman, who oversees the company's newspapers in the Southeast, said Borton will bring passion to her new post as a leader in public service journalism and digital journalism. McClatchy owns 27 other newspapers in the United States.

Borton succeeds Henry B. Haitz III, who resigned as president and publisher of the State Media Co. in December to become president and publisher of Hearst's Connecticut Newspapers.

Borton has been publisher of The Island Packet since 1993 and The Beaufort Gazette since 2001. Over her tenure, she contributed to the growth of The Island Packet from a twice-weekly tabloid to a daily newspaper. In 2006, she oversaw the building of a 50,000-square-foot production facility for both papers featuring a state-of-the-art printing press. In 2009, she led the consolidation of newspaper operations at both papers.

Borton has deep roots in South Carolina. She was born in Gainesville, Fla., but moved to South Carolina when she was 9 and has lived in the state ever since.

She earned a communications degree from Winthrop University in Rock Hill and began her newspaper career while a student there, working part time as a reporter for the Rock Hill Times. She joined the paper full time after graduation and later moved into advertising positions with the Savannah News-Press and Hilton Head News. Borton joined The Island Packet in 1983 as a sales representative, became sales and marketing manager and then general manager before being named publisher.

She is married to Brett Borton, a communications professor at the University of South Carolina Beaufort. The couple have four children. Borton is the 12th person and second woman to be publisher of the 123-year-old State. Ann Caulkins, now president and publisher of the Charlotte Observer, also was publisher of The State.

Borton will take over a newspaper with a storied past and contemporary industry challenges. Like every other U.S. daily, The State saw its advertising revenues drop with the rise of the Internet in the 1990s and early 2000s.

But The State, and other newspapers in the McClatchy chain, embarked on an expanded digital presence and exclusive content to inject new life into the industry. So far in 2014, The State's website, <a href="" target="_blank"></a>, ranks second among the McClatchy newspapers in percentage growth over the previous year. The development of <a href="" target="_blank"></a>, a website devoted to coverage of USC sports, has been ranked a success among the company's digital enterprises.

The State was founded Feb. 18, 1891, by the two Gonzales brothers, whose father was of Cuban descent and whose mother, Harriett Elliott, was rooted in S.C. plantation society.

As a journalist for the Charleston News and Courier, N.G. Gonzales was a keen and outspoken observer of post-war life in South Carolina, taking the side of the old-line Bourbons embodied by Confederate hero Wade Hampton over the Populist firebrand Gov. Benjamin Ryan Tillman, whom N.G. described as "the great bamboozler."

The animus toward the Tillman regime would dominate the early years of the newspaper as the brothers crusaded against lynching and for progressive outlook on issues including child labor and women's suffrage. In 1903, N.G. Gonzales was mortally wounded on Gervais Street by Lt. Gov. James Tillman, Ben Tillman's nephew, who had long feuded with the editor.

The State-Record Co., which by the midpoint of the 20th century included the afternoon Columbia Record, remained family-owned until 1986 when it was purchased by Knight-Ridder. The McClatchy Co. acquired Knight-Ridder in 2006.

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