South County News publishes its 100th edition

By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe, Editor

This newspaper marks the 100th issue of the South County News, a point of pride for the many individuals involved in the grass-roots effort to publish a local newspaper.

When it was first published in 2013, the communities of Schoolcraft and Vicksburg had been without a hometown newspaper for nearly a year.

The Kalamazoo Gazette had published a predecessor, the Commercial-Express, from 2007 to 2012.

Vicksburg’s village president at the time, Bill Adams, sensed the communities’ desire to revive a paper. He contacted Sue Moore, a lifelong Vicksburg resident who had newspaper experience, energy and contacts: Moore’s parents, Bernice and Meredith Clark, had owned The Commercial-Express for 40 years before selling it in 1972. Moore had been involved with the paper in the 1960s and 70s.

Starting in November, 2012, a group including Moore, Wes Schmitt, Steve Ellis, Norm Hinga, Bob Smith and Kim Marston began meeting and planning. The first issue was published in June, 2013. It wasn’t easy.

The team gathered enough advertising to pay the cost of printing that June edition: $2,500. Then the group and more volunteers hand-delivered 11,000 copies to homes in south Kalamazoo County. The experience was challenging, prompting inclusion of a donation envelope in the next edition to pay for postal delivery.

Since that time, advertising revenue and community donations have enabled the sustainability of the paper. The IRS also approved nonprofit status. That reduced mailing costs by a third. In addition, staff now earn a modest amount for time and effort.

The paper’s focus is south county local news: village and township government and happenings, school board meetings, student achievements, sports, human interest stories and obituaries. Throughout the years, many writers and individuals have contributed to the paper’s success. Of the original group, Schmitt and Ellis continue their involvement and share their expertise.

Today, more than 11,000 papers are printed and delivered to homes and businesses in the area. Sue Moore wrote many of the features, but after her death in 2020, regular columnists, reporters and community members are writing and contributing to the monthly publication.

The South County News’ success continues to depend on the contributions from readers and loyal advertisers’ dollars. The future is bright for continuing to showcase the good news in south county.

Current Members of The South County News Board

Rob Ball

Sue Moore snagged Rob for copy-reading when he moved to Vicksburg to marry Rachel Freeman in 2014. He had spent 30 years reporting and copy reading on a daily newspaper in Royal Oak between 1963 and retirement in 1998, wrote editorials for the newspaper for 20 years before and after retirement and reported for a daily paper in Hillsdale in the 2000’s. He considers himself fortunate; the career has rewarded him for everything he ever learned. Rob sings with an a cappella Christmas gig group back in Ferndale, sings and serves on committees at Vicksburg United Methodist, holds an amateur radio license and does some occasional woodworking.

Wes Schmitt

Wes, along with Sue Moore, Steve Ellis, and a few other volunteers founded the South County News in 2013. Wes has been the secretary/treasurer since the paper began. Wes is retired from accounting at Pharmacia and Upjohn.  He has outside interests including golf, gardening, reading, and prior to the pandemic, dining out with his wife, Sharon. He has been active in Schoolcraft politics including the Schoolcraft Village Council, serving as village president, member of Schoolcraft’s Planning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals and Well Head Protection Committee. He has also been active with South County Community Services Board, serving as treasurer, and the South County EMS Board as president. He looks forward to continuing his involvement with paper, health permitting.

Sheri Freeland

Sue Moore and Bob Smith reeled Sheri into helping the South County News in advertising towards the end of 2013. Bob’s famous line: He didn’t know the difference between a perm and a pedicure and needed her help. Sheri has lived on the outskirts of Vicksburg all her life, growing up on the north side of Indian Lake, and still resides nearby. She volunteered many years in the Vicksburg school system while her children attended. She worked as a hair stylist and in sales for many years, and at the Air Zoo. She enjoys the lake in all seasons, downhill skiing, bonfires, family and friends. Sheri appreciates everyone’s support and wants to do all she can for local businesses.

Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe

Kathy began writing a column for the South County News in 2019 and assumed the role of editor and publisher after Sue Moore’s death in 2020. She is a full-time English teacher at Vicksburg High School and a lifelong area resident who enjoys gardening, reading, and entertaining friends and family. She writes and blogs about growing up on a family farm and living in a small town. She appreciates the community’s support and believes in the importance of a community newspaper.

Steve Ellis

Steve grew up in Pontiac, reading the Pontiac Press. After graduating from WMU, he sold computers and shopper ads before spending 23 years at the Kalamazoo Gazette in advertising. In 2012, he started Southwest Michigan Spark, a publication targeting baby boomers. At that same time, he joined a handful of local residents in looking into the idea of starting a newspaper targeting the greater Vicksburg and Schoolcraft areas. They felt there was a need, and were able to pull it off. Steve loves local history, sports and just about everything else small towns have to offer.

Justin Gibson

Our graphic designer, Justin Gibson, was brought onto the team by Sue Moore in June 2014 and has done the layout for each issue since. Gibson studied art and creative writing in college and earned an Master of Fine Arts degree in playwriting from WMU. Before he joined the crew of this paper, he worked as a cartoonist for his high school and college newspapers.

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