Sid Crim, a former top executive at The State newspaper who helped oversee major changes in the newspaper’s pre-Internet history, died earlier this week after an 18-year struggle with Parkinson’s Disease. He was 76.
Crim grew up in Lexington County and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of South Carolina. In 1967, in an era when reporters used typewriters and wrote on paper, Crim started work as a personnel manager at The State. But he left after three years to manage papers in West Virginia.
In 1980, The State’s owners brought Crim back from West Virginia as the paper’s new executive vice president and general manager. His mission was to lift up a demoralized workforce and bring people together, wrote the late Robert Pierce in “Pamettos and Oaks,” a 1991 centennial history of The State.
Crim later was promoted to president of the State-Record Company.
“Crim,” Pierce wrote, “stressed cooperation and teamwork. He instituted dialogue sessions to combat rumors and gossip. He involved department heads as ‘the real experts’ in setting company goals.”
While stressing that profitability is “our first duty,” Crim contended that money “doesn’t reign above all” and cited the importance of “quality, duty, community service and interest in employees,” wrote Pierce, a former senior associate editor at The State.
Over the next 15 years, Crim was involved in company decisions that changed the character of the news business in the Columbia area, ramifications still felt today.
The early 1980s were a boom era. The State and its sister paper were family-owned operations, enjoying a near-monopoly on news gathering in the Columbia area and employing hundreds of workers in news, advertising and circulation departments.
In those days, newspapers were mini-Googles. Fat print editions were overflowing with dozens of news stories and advertisements that brought in tens of millions of dollars every year. The State was sold or delivered in nearly every county in South Carolina.
But as the 1980s wore on, Crim — like newspaper executives across the nation — began to wrestle with rising expenses, advertising slumps, debates over the proper ratio of news content to advertising and increasing competition from The Greenville News and The Charlotte Observer, both of which maintained active news bureaus in Columbia.
By 1986, the heirs of the State-Record Company’s founders, who had started The State in 1891, chose to sell their company for $311 million to a newspaper chain called Knight-Ridder, a national company known for producing excellent journalism and turning tidy profits.
None of the heirs wanted to take over the company, and an expiring federal law made selling a family-owned newspaper to a chain at the end of 1986 particularly advantageous.
“The advent of the computer changed the whole business,” Crim told a State newspaper reporter in a 1994 story when he retired from the company.
Crim lamented that in the past, newspapers were far more personal enterprises, staffed by colorful and carefree personalities as well as hands-on craft workers whose jobs were replaced by revolutionary computer technology that now dominates every phase of newspaper production.
Occasionally, Crim made news himself, such as when he took steps to ban smoking at The State newspaper offices in 1992.
Crim, once a two-pack-a-day smoker, told the reporter who wrote a story published in The State that he had just quit smoking and would of course obey his own edict.
“That doesn’t mean I won’t smoke a cigarette tomorrow,” Crim was quoted as saying. “But if I do, it won’t be in this building.”
Services for Crim will be Thursday, Jan. 3, at noon, at Thompson Funeral Home in Lexington.