Palatka Daily News names Wayne Smith as editor

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Wayne Smith has taken the reins as editor of the Palatka Daily News and leader of the paper's award-winning news team.

Smith comes to Putnam County from Muscle Shoals, Ala., with an extensive background in daily newspaper newsroom management, news, business and sports writing, and private industry marketing. Among his past newspaper postings have been the Spartanburg (S.C.) Herald Journal, the Florence (Ala.) Times-Daily and The Huntsville (Ala.) Times.

"I am very happy to have Wayne join the Palatka Daily News and lead our news division forward in 2019 and beyond," Daily News Publisher Michael Leonard said. "Wayne and his wife, Dorinda, have already done a lot of exploring in Putnam County and found much to appreciate and enjoy."

"I'm looking forward to this opportunity and being a part of the revitalization efforts taking place in our community," said Smith. "It didn't take me long to learn that Putnam County and Palatka are poised for growth. Hopefully, the Daily News can contribute to what appears to be a bright future for our area and our residents."

Smith takes over a team that is a mixture of seasoned and fresh writers and editors, most with multiple press association awards for excellence. Experience in the newsroom peaks with Lifestyles Editor Trisha Murphy's 43-plus years and Sports Editor Andy Hall's 35-plus. Fran Ruchalski is the new guy with three months as the Daily News photojournalist but many years as a professional behind the camera.

News Editor Brandon D. Oliver has been the interim newsroom leader for the past four months during the search for a permanent editor. A Palatka native in his seventh year at the paper, Oliver was hired as a reporter and named news editor in May 2018.

"Our newsroom team offers a lot of talent, experience and knowledge of this community," Smith said. "I want to thank them for helping me get adjusted during this first week here, Brandon especially, along with Trisha and Andy."

Sports reporter Mark Blumenthal has been Hall's running mate since August 2003. The two share unparalleled experience and knowledge about Putnam County sports and provide great perspective and local coverage of team and individual sports.

News reporters John Shipley and Cristóbal Reyes joined the Daily News staff in July and November 2018, respectively. Shipley, of Oakleaf, and Reyes, North Miami Beach, were classmates and are graduates of the School of Communication and Media at the University of Central Florida. They have immersed themselves in local news and Putnam County living.

"John and Cristóbal already know a lot about this community, and I look forward to learning more about Putnam County along with them," Smith said. "We want our entire newsroom team to be the source for local news."

Smith said the entire newspaper staff is already discussing initiatives for getting feedback from readers on ways to improve local coverage in multiple areas.

"I know Wayne is looking forward to meeting as many new Putnam County friends and neighbors as he can while settling into his new job," Leonard said.

"Readers will find in him the steady, forward direction Putnam County is looking for in the next editor of its hometown newspaper."

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