In 2011, members of the Osteen family have been involved in newspapering in Sumter, S.C., for over 150 years, which is believed to be the longest continuous family involvement in a newspaper in South Carolina, and one of the longest in the United States. It is also the oldest family-owned business in Sumter.
A history of The Item, South Carolina's first small town daily newspaper, is not complete without mention of The Watchman and Southron, its antecedent, which was the creation of N.G. Osteen, the patriarch of the family that owns and operates the newspaper today. Noah Graham Osteen began his career in the newspaper business at the age of 12, when he joined The Sumter Watchman in 1855 as an apprentice. After completing his apprenticeship in 1861, he moved to Conway, to run a newspaper started by the owners of The Watchman, H.L. Darr and A.A. Gilbert. The newspaper, the Horry Dispatch, was discontinued in 1862 because of the upheaval caused by the Civil War. Mr. Osteen worked for awhile in Columbia at a printing company, and following the war, joined a newspaper in Charleston, the Carolinian.
When that newspaper folded in 1866, Mr. Osteen returned to Sumter to become a partner with H.L. Darr in operating a newspaper Mr. Darr had started, The Sumter News.
In 1874 The Sumter News' name was changed to The True Southron. In 1881, in partnership with the Rev. C.C. Brown, Mr. Osteen bought The Sumter Watchman and consolidated it with The True Southron into The Watchman and Southron. He later bought sole controlling interest in the newspaper and continued to operate it until 1930, when it was consolidated into The Sumter Daily Item.
Before that, his son, Hubert Graham Osteen, had worked with him as editor from 1891 to 1894 when, on Oct. 15, 1894, he founded The Sumter Daily Item. Aided and supported by his father, H.G. Osteen operated The Item as editor and publisher. By 1924, his son, Hubert Duvall Osteen, had joined him in running the newspaper. In 1946, H.G. Osteen retired, retaining the title of president of Osteen Publishing Co. Inc. until his death on March 30, 1955. (N.G. Osteen died on Nov. 8, 1936.)
H.D. Osteen remained as editor and publisher of The Sumter Daily Item until 1972, when his son, Hubert Duvall Osteen Jr., who had joined The Item in May of 1963, was named editor. H.D. Osteen retained the title of publisher until 1984, when H.D. Osteen Jr. became editor and publisher. He now holds the position of editor of The Item and chairman of Osteen Publishing Co.
H.D. Osteen retired from active management of the company on Dec. 1, 1986, but was chairman of the company at the time of his death on April 14, 1987. He was succeeded as chairman by his wife, Margaret Weeks Osteen, who held that position until her death on May 3, 1996.
The fifth generation of Osteens is involved in directing The Item and Osteen Publishing Co. Hubert Graham Osteen II is editor at large and co-president and secretary of Osteen Publishing Co. Kyle Brown Osteen is co-president of Osteen Publishing Co. John Duvall (Jack) Osteen is publisher of The Item and a vice president of Osteen Publishing Co. Larry Miller serves as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the company.
In September 2011, the Osteen family purchased four publications in the Jacksonville, Fla., area from Journal Community Publishing Group, Inc., a subsidiary of Journal Communications, Inc., of Milwaukee, Wis.
Weekly publications and corresponding websites are Clay Today, Clay County Leader, the Ponte Vedra Recorder, and the Car Connection, a weekly magazine serving Jacksonville-area auto dealers.
The Florida properties fall under a division of Osteen Publishing Co. - OPC News, LLC - which is owned by the brothers and managed by Miller.