South Carolina

October 25, 2013

Gina Smith takes new position at Lowcountry newspapers

Janet Smith, award-winning editor of The Island Packet's and The Beaufort Gazette's Opinion page, is leaving the position to make a long-planned move to her new home in Westcliffe, Colo.

Gina Smith, a senior reporter at the newspapers who also has been honored for her political reporting, is moving into the position.

Janet Smith worked for the Packet and Gazette for 20 years -- as a reporter, city editor, managing editor, and for the past eight years, editor of the Opinion page.

The Opinion page editor is responsible for writing editorials that reflect the positions of the newspapers' editorial board, and for handling letters to the editor and syndicated columnists, op-ed submissions and editorial cartoons. The editorial board is chaired by publisher Sara Johnson Borton; other members include the executive editor, associate editor and managing editor. During weekly meetings, the board discusses community issues, and after reaching a consensus on the newspapers' stance, the Opinion page editor writes the editorial.

Janet Smith has been known for her passion for protecting the Lowcountry's natural resources -- an interest that aligned with the newspapers' long-held belief that the area's environment is the bedrock of its economic and cultural vitality. A Bluffton-area resident for 28 years, she took particular interest in the health of the May River.

Twice -- in 2006 and 2009 -- the S.C. Press Association honored her by selecting editorials she wrote as the best among those from all daily newspapers in the state. In 2003, she also received the McClatchy Company's President's Award for coverage of a dredging project in Sea Pines that ran afoul of state and federal rules. McClatchy owns the Packet, the Gazette, and 29 other daily newspapers in the country.

"I've always been struck by this community's vibrancy, the intelligent and engaging people who live and work here and the seemingly never-ending stories to be told," Janet Smith said. "Readers play a vital role in what we do; we couldn't do our job without them. There has not been a single boring day, and there are few jobs that you can say that about."

As for her plans in Colorado, she said: "All I'll be doing is unpacking -- at least for now."

"Janet has been an important contributor the last 20 years," Borton said. "We are better as a business, and as community, for her contribution. Janet will be missed. "

The new Opinion page editor, Gina Smith, was a reporter for 15 years at The State newspaper in Columbia before joining the Packet and Gazette in December 2012. She has covered public education, local government, statewide and presidential elections and state government, including the governor's office and the legislature.

"I'm honored to follow in the footsteps of Janet, offering analysis on the big issues of the day and giving readers a place to share their opinions," Gina Smith said.

In 2012, the S.C. Press Association named her the first-place winner for government reporting for stories about ethics reform at the S.C. State House.

She has won two McClatchy President's Awards for journalism excellence. One was in 2009 for her work with a team that disclosed that then-Gov. Mark Sanford was in Argentina with his lover, not hiking the Appalachian Trail as his staff had said. Smith confronted Sanford in the Atlanta airport and confirmed he had traveled to Buenos Aires.

Since then, she has appeared on CNN, Fox public radio and other national news programs, discussing S.C. politics.

Gina Smith's second President's Award came in 2011 for revealing that Gov. Nikki Haley and her staff were deleting important correspondence that showed the inner workings of the governor's office and its interactions with others in power.

Since the story appeared, the governor's office has changed its policy and now preserves its correspondence.

Gina Smith is a Spartanburg native with a bachelor's degree from College of Charleston and a master's degree in mass communication from the University of South Carolina. She and her husband, Robert Gilbert, live on Hilton Head Island and have a 4-month-old daughter, Harper Gilbert.

Janet Smith is a Kansas native. She graduated from the University of Kansas with a bachelor's degree in journalism and a master's degree in business administration. She and her husband, Greg, have three grown children.

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