Johnstonian News expands into Smithfield

From staff reports

The Johnstonian News is expanding its news coverage and circulation territory from northeastern Johnston County to the county seat of Smithfield.

This week’s paper is the premiere edition distributed in Smithfield, with up to 25 newspaper vending racks dotting the city and more to come along with in-store vendors signing up to sell copies, explained Publisher Keven Zepezauer, who is president of parent company The Wilson Times Co.

“We’re excited to be reporting the news in Smithfield and growing our base of readers, subscribers and business partners in Johnston County,” Zepezauer said. “Our presence should help fill the gap left by The Smithfield Herald when it went out of print. Johnston is one of the fastest-growing counties in the state and its county seat should have a local newspaper it can call its own.”

Community leaders cheered the announcement, noting that the presence of a local newspaper could bolster economic development and growth and help foster civic pride.

“We are glad to have a local newspaper covering Smithfield again, and look forward to working with The Johnstonian News to inform residents of Johnston County and beyond about the great things happening here in downtown Smithfield,” Sarah Edwards, director of the Downtown Smithfield Development Corp., said in an email.

The Johnstonian News plans to cover Smithfield city government as well as general news, business and feature stories.

“Although Johnston County has pockets of traditional newspaper coverage in certain areas, as well as a mix of media outlets via radio, social media, websites and monthly publications that cover the county, there has been a ‘newspaper vacuum’ over the last few years that some residents desire,” wrote Chris Johnson, director of Johnston County Economic Development. “With this announcement, I believe it will fill a media void due to the reduced coverage of the Smithfield Herald, Clayton News Star and the News & Observer.”

The Johnstonian News relaunched Sept. 4 after The Wilson Times Co. purchased the Johnstonian group previously consisting of four titles — the Kenly News, the Princeton News Leader, the Pine Level News and The Selma News — from Rick and Karen Stewart of Kenly.

The newspaper maintains an office at 201 W. Second St. in Kenly, where reporters Steve Reed and Keith Barnes and customer service representative Deborah Denton are based. The paper is designed at The Wilson Times, where publisher Zepezauer, editor Corey Friedman and sales and marketing director Shana Hoover serve in dual roles for both publications.

Since September, the Johnstonian News has broadened its focus to cover more countywide news. That continues with the addition of Smithfield to the paper’s northeastern Johnston footprint. Adding Smithfield city news further expands the newspaper’s scope.

Lee Jackson, who represents District 6 on the Johnston County Board of Commissioners and is a certified public accountant at Smithfield-based Dees, Jackson, Jackson & Associates, said the move will result in Smithfield residents being more informed about their community.

“Local news is like local politics: it has more direct impact on your daily life than what happens in D.C.,” Jackson said in an email.

The Johnstonian News welcomes submissions of local announcements, news tips, coverage requests and letters to the editor at Office hours in Kenly are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays and 10 a.m. to noon on Fridays.

For general questions, call the Johnstonian News office at 919-284-2295. Calls are routed to The Wilson Times office after business hours.


  1. Deidre Kraft on November 7, 2018 at 8:34 am

    What wonderful news! Can I subscribe or will I just find this paper at a local newsstand or a local business? I’m really looking forward to reading local news once again!

    • Editor on November 8, 2018 at 6:34 pm

      Yes to both — we’re rolling out newspaper vending boxes in Smithfield, and subscriptions for home delivery via U.S. mail are also available. Please call The Wilson Times front desk at 252-243-5151 to subscribe. Thank you for reading.

  2. Steve on November 13, 2018 at 4:05 pm

    Y’all should have never stopped the Kenly Pine Level and Princeton paper. I was a subscriber for 20 years however not going to renew due to new management.

    • Editor on November 14, 2018 at 12:31 am

      Hi Steve,
      We’re sorry to lose you and hope we can earn your business back one day. We combined the four titles into the Johnstonian News because these often weren’t the separate publications they seemed. The vast majority of content appeared in all newspapers and was simply rearranged. We didn’t feel that was the best use of resources. The Johnstonian News is still committed to covering Kenly, Pine Level, Princeton and Selma as it always has. If you’d like to discuss what we could do to improve the paper and what kind of stories might entice you to pick it up, please drop me a line at or give me a call at 252-265-7813.
      Corey Friedman
      Editor, Johnstonian News

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