CLAY COUNTY – As I start with Clay Today, I wanted to tell you a little about me. I’m a 26-year-old reporter from Columbia, South Carolina. I graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2019 with an advanced degree in multimedia journalism, but my journey in the industry began long before that.
My first role was with Bleacher Report from 2009-2012 covering college and professional football.
But Bleacher Report was just the beginning for me. I now have 13 years of sportswriting experience, with four years overlapping as a news reporter. My byline has been featured in more than 10 publications, including Fansided, Front Porch Football, The Daily Gamecock, South Carolina Public Radio, Cola Daily, The Daniel Island News, Fits News, The Florida Keys Free Press, Rivals, and now, The Clay Today!
During my time in the newsroom, I have covered more than 60 news and sports beats, with my byline featured in cities like Columbia and Charleston in South Carolina, as well as Key Largo, Key West and Miami.
I have written on several major topics, including the 2020 presidential election, and the 2019 Carolina versus Tampa Bay Thursday Night Football Game featuring former FSU quarterback Jameis Winston.
Most recently, at The Florida Keys Free Press in Key Largo, I wrote localized state, national and international news topics, including state tourism, the housing affordability crisis, the gasoline price crisis, which hiked to the highest prices in U.S. history and the Ukraine War, with a U.S. refugee fleeing to safety in Islamorada in February, leaving behind his home, car and community.
Hotly-contested Village of Islamorada politics and local artists, musicians, restaurant and resident features were part of my weekly coverage, which also dove into non-profits, the auctioning off of the island chain’s six lighthouses and other topics that make the Keys and South Florida unique, including deep-sea fishing tournaments, hurricanes, shark attacks, dolphin rescues, coral reefs, the python problem in the Everglades National Park and wild tales from residents, such as Keys’ resident John Lincoln’s tale of hand-building a boat in Indonesia and sailing the ‘Borneo Princess’ across the South China Sea from Indonesia to China before he boarded a cargo ship to his new home in Key Largo.
Preceding my time in Key Largo, I covered several pertinent topics in my home Palmetto State, including duck hunting, turkey hunting and pertinent state industries such as agriculture and forestry, along with state infrastructure, city services, residential and commercial real estate at The Daniel Island News and Cola Daily. I led freelance coverage of South Carolina, Clemson, Carolina Panthers and Coastal Carolina football while working at Daniel Island News and also spent time covering high school football and basketball features and all Gamecocks’ sports at Cola Daily.
I am a proud southerner and outdoorsman that greatly enjoys duck and squirrel hunting and catfishing. I have harvested 33 species of fish, birds and animals during my time in the woods and on water. An avid supporter of the University of South Carolina, I even served as the mascot ‘Cocky’ from 2015-16 for baseball, softball and other community events.
I am always busy writing, but I enjoyed a gap year in 2021, when I was a ranch hand at A-Bar-A Guest Ranch in Wyoming. I also spent two months living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where I freelanced, fished the Mississippi River and explored Cajun Country.
When I’m not busy writing for Clay Today, I will pursue my part-time passion for sports. I still work as a freelance recruiting editor for Rivals.com’s South Carolina Gamecocks and Palmetto Preps high school page. I have a network of coaches and student-athletes in 18 states. And I have visited top scouting camps, including one held in 2021 at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium.
My knowledge has expanded to Jacksonville, so I’d be happy to have a water cooler discussions with Gators, Seminoles and Bulldogs fans about high school players to watch, but I’m much more concerned about writing and reporting the top issues and interests pressing Clay County.
With that being said, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or directly message me at Lee Wardlaw on Facebook or @RivalsWardlaw on Twitter.
I will promptly set up a face-to-face or phone call to field story pitches from residents. You tell the tales of the great Clay County, and without you, there wouldn’t be a way to fill the pages of the newspaper.
The issues that matter to you, matter to me, too.