Where are they now? Former News & Press writer Hunter Thomas
By Jana E. Pye, Editor, email@example.com
As our masthead says, this newspaper has been sharing the news of Darlington County since 1874, and has launched the careers of many local writers.
One such writer, Hunter Thomas, has made a name for himself in racing circles, and the website he writes for, TheFourthTurn.com, has been gaining national attention.
“I began writing for the News & Press when I was taking a news writing class at Francis Marion University in 2010,” said Thomas. “I started out doing freelance and worked my way up to cover sports. At first I had a lot to learn, but I did manage to get some fan mail when I covered local elections. But covering NASCAR has been my ultimate passion.”
Thomas works full time at Florence Darlington Technical College with Clay Williams, Director of Public Relations, using his talent as a writer, photographer, and social media expert to help share the news that the local college.
“The website helps me so much away from the racetrack, as well. I work at Florence-Darlington Technical College during the week, and the whole NASCAR thing is always a fantastic conversation starter for whoever it is I’m talking to. In fact, I’ve been able to give a few of my NASCAR industry friends a tour of the SiMT while they were in town.” said Thomas. I’ve even helped the college get involved with the local racing community by sponsoring Darlingtonian, Hal Goodson. The FDTC sponsored Super Truck was on display at many local events in 2015, and Hal was able to capture the Pee Dee Coastal Super Truck Series championship.”
Thomas has loved NASCAR since he was young, and attended his first NASCAR race in the late 90’s.
“I really was self taught, and learned to write about racing from what I heard the sportscasters say while watching the races.”
His first experience covering the local Darlington Raceway track was for the 2010 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Too Tough To Tame 200 on Saturday, August 14 at Darlington Raceway – was working for News & Press.
His first Bojangles’ Southern 500 as media for the News & Press was the 2011 edition when Regan Smith won.
And that was the year that the website www.TheFourthTurn.com was founded – in 2011, and covers NASCAR, ARCA Racing Series, NHRA, World of Outlaws, Red Bull Global Rallycross, grassroots racing and more.
“Florence County Sheriff Office’s Christopher Neal and Thomas started www.TheFourthTurn.com in 2011. Chris Owens, who is now a photographer in NASCAR, also played a huge role in developing the site.
“Christopher Neal and I agreed to start TheFourthTurn.com one day while we were working in the control tower at Dillon Motor Speedway. There just aren’t that many motorsports news sites covering grassroots racing in the Carolinas, so we saw an opportunity. As we evolved, we felt confident enough to start covering NASCAR and other national series. We’re competing with the national media outlets like Fox Sports, NBC Sports and ESPN, but every site has its niche. As for us, we’ve decided to not only write about grassroots racing, but we put the local heroes right next to motorsports’ superstars on our news feeds. There are only a handful of small websites competing in the NASCAR industry, and we happen to be one of them.”
Thomas continued: “We started off covering local Late Model events in S.C. and N.C., but once I graduated college in December of 2012, we decided to really give the site an extended effort.”
The site does not pay their writers, but the exposure is huge.
“The weekly staff at TheFourthTurn.com is made up of several young adults from around the country, “ said Thomas. “Our website competes on the biggest stage in all of motorsports, but it has evolved into a great resource for college kids and young adults to get their foot in the door. We had one writer start off the 2015 season writing for us, and before the season was over, she obtained a paying opportunity within the industry. Several of us have made massive sacrifices to build the brand, and now were looked at in the industry as a credible news outlet.”
Contributors to the site include:
The owner and co-founder is Christopher Neal, with Thomas as the co-founder and managing editor.
“I focus on NASCAR, NHRA, World of Outlaws, Red Bull Global Rallycross and Grassroots Racing.” said Thomas.
Also joining the pair are Hunter’s father, Wayne Thomas, as primary photographer (NASCAR, NHRA, World of Outlaws, Red Bull Global Rallycross and Grassroots Racing); main writer Kyle Pokrefky (NASCAR and ARCA Racing Series) hails from Chicago; other main writer Camille Jones (NASCAR) currently attends UNC Charlotte;
Fellow Darlingtonian Tyler Goodson (NASCAR) lives on James Island but still travels to the races a good bit; Thomas Clanton (NASCAR) is another fellow Darlingtonian currently lives in Easley now, and takes photographs occasionally; Jason Beck (NASCAR and Grassroots Racing) works for the Fayetteville Observer and freelances for TheFourthTurn; Tommy Dampier (NASCAR) a writer for the Lee County Observer and freelances; Benjamin Sanders a student from the University of Central Florida who will start with the 2016 season.
Alanis King no longer works for website while attending the University of Texas. “Alanis moved on to paying opportunities,” said Thomas.
“Our website without a doubt carriers the South Carolina banner throughout the NASCAR industry when it comes to media. I could be wrong, but I believe TheFourthTurn.com is the only annually credentialed NASCAR news media website based in the Palmetto State with the exception of maybe a couple based in the Upstate. There are several annually credentialed NASCAR journalists who call the state home, but there aren’t that many websites, and that speaks volumes for our little team. We take a lot of pride in that. I encourage all of my fellow South Carolinians to continue to read the national media’s content because their dollars help keep the sport going, but please visit our site, as well. For the most part, we’re reporting the same stories all of the major national media outlets are. Our team traveled to and covered 40% of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule last year.”
Thomas credits the newspaper for giving him a way to share his love of NASCAR:
“The first time I walked into Darlington Raceway as a media member in 2010 was just a dream come true. Even though practice that weekend was held on Friday the 13th, I experienced nothing but blessings and good luck. I had been in the garage before, but that weekend was the first time in my life that I ever felt like I truly belonged there. Without the News & Press giving me the opportunity that particular weekend, it’s very possible that I wouldn’t have moved through the sport so quickly.”