Alum works way up Media General ladder


Francis Marion University alumnus and former editor of The Patriot Matt McColl throws up a “W” sign to represent The Weekly Observer, a Hemingway newspaper of which he recently became editor.

Leah Haselden, Staff Writer

Matt McColl, a 2009 Francis Marion University graduate, has worked hard to be successful, and he holds the editor position for Hemingway’s newspaper, The Weekly Observer, to prove it.

When asked why he even got into the mass communication field, he claimed he did not have much of a choice.

“I was not good at math, and I was not good at science, but I was a pretty good writer,” McColl said.

To be as young as he is, McColl has accomplished a lot. He worked at The Star and Enterprise, the newspaper for his hometown of Mullins, S.C., for the three consecutive summers from 2007 to 2009. After he graduated from FMU, where he worked as the assistant editor for one year before taking on the role of editor for The Patriot the following year, McColl went straight to the University of South Carolina to get his master’s degree in mass communication with a focus on integrated marketing communication. Shortly after that, John Sweeney, also an FMU alumnus and former political correspondent for The Patriot, recommended McColl be his successor at The Weekly Observer.

“To be perfectly honest, I was thrilled when I heard Matt was taking over as editor,” Sweeney said. “I remembered working with him at The Patriot and anyone could see then his creativity and great news sense. The fact that he is an FMU alum was icing on the cake. I would love to see The Weekly Observer become a launching point for FMU grads starting a career in journalism. The mass [communication] program continues to grow, and if they can produce quality news people who enjoy the work and are committed individuals, I know they would have a shot to join the Media General family like Matt did,” Sweeney said.

McColl took his chance even though he knew it would be hard work.

“I’m here pretty much every day and all weekend,” McColl said.  “I don’t really have time for anything else. The content [of the paper] is due on Sunday, so I have to make sure everything is ready.”

McColl writes four to six stories for each issue of The Weekly Observer, and he takes almost every picture. Every story he writes goes on, and he has had several of his stories in the Morning News.

Fortunately, McColl has had plenty to write about. Sweeney said that the first week during McColl’s training was intense.

“We had a man hunt, an explosion at Don’s Car Crushing, a possible plane crash (turns out it was just a false alarm) and two house fires,” Sweeney said. “As a result of his baptism by fire, I have since dubbed him ‘Mayhem McCool’ because whenever Matt shows up somewhere, news seems to happen.”

McColl said that he gets to cover plenty of interesting events.

“It is a small town environment, but exciting things still happen,” McColl said.

McColl considers himself lucky that he was able to get such a good opportunity right out of graduate school. He hopes to work as The Weekly Observer editor for a few years and move up through the Media General company.

McColl credits the Mass Communication Department at FMU as part of his success. He said that the professors were extra helpful, and there were plenty of hands on experiences to be a part of.

However, he said that Angela Crosland, who works in the Community Affairs office, was someone he could not have done without.

“Angela was always willing to help me,” McColl said.  “She is the one who helped me arrange to do my practicum at FMU.”

McColl said that she is still helping him with whatever he needs.

“I say I want to move up in the Media General, but I really just want to take Angela’s job and work at Francis Marion,” McColl said. “She can move up, and I’ll fill her position.”

McColl offered good advice to current and future mass communication majors. Even though McColl himself took the Public Relations route, he said he would change that he if could go back.

“Don’t limit yourself to just writing, taking photos, sports, or something like that,” McColl said. “Don’t choose just one because it is mandatory that you know everything.”