Your connection to industry & member news
Your connection to industry & member news
Your connection to industry & member news  |  Oct. 22, 2020

Call SCPA for SLED background checks

SCPA staffers are happy to run free SLED criminal background checks for member journalists. Please call our office during business hours at (803) 750-9561 to request a SLED check. You must provide the full name and date of birth. Checks are for news stories only.
After hours and on weekends, reporters must go to the SLED website and pay the $25 fee. 
 Here's more about obtaining a background check.

Loris Times applies for membership

SCPA received a membership application last week from the Loris Times, a weekly newspaper in the Loris/northern Horry County area. Polly Lowman is publisher. Lowman also owns the North Myrtle Beach Times, a longtime SCPA member publication. 
If you have any comments about this application, contact Bill Rogers.
Member Spotlight: Michael M. DeWitt, Jr. 
Editor/Manager, Hampton County Guardian

What do you like best about your job?

I get to do three of my favorite things: create, write and tell stories.
What is your proudest career moment?
Publishing two books, and a few years ago I was awarded the Hampton County Chamber of Commerce "Person of the Year" award for my volunteer work in the community. 

What's the most exciting thing going on at your paper?
1. I make a strong effort to cultivate high school student writers, college interns and freelance correspondents. Not only does this solve some manpower and coverage problems in a world of "downsizing," it also gives me an opportunity to coach some young and promising writers and journalists and watch them learn and develop.
2. I have also partnered with our local school districts and given them more space to run announcements and vital info in our paper - provided they submit ready-to-print pdfs to make it easy on the production side. This has been a great success! Each week, our public school districts submit ready-for-print school pages, such as "The Gator Happenings," and now, in the age of distance learning, it is easier than ever to help keep parents informed. I run those school pages on our Facebook page from time to time as well. 

What’s your favorite SCPA member service?
S.C. News Exchange, of course! The Exchange helps me get my column, Southern Voices, Southern Stories, out to papers around the state, in addition to being distributed to papers nationwide in our company through More Content Now. 
 
What adjustments have you made during COVID-19? 
Basically, I rely more on phone interviews and using my freelance correspondents more. I also use social media friends to submit photos more often.

When it’s safe to get out and about again, what are some area attractions/restaurants in your community we shouldn’t miss?
Hopefully, the Hampton County Watermelon Festival will be back next year! And year round, there are tons of hunting, fishing and boating opportunities in our area. 

What is something most people don't know about you?
I grew up on a farm and then worked as a meat cutter and construction worker before becoming a journalist and editor. So while these days I sit on my plump rear end in front of a computer, if need be I can build a house from the ground up and turn any animal you want into a fine dining experience. When the COVID-19 Zombie Apocalypse goes down, this country boy should be able to survive.  

What do you like to do outside of work?
I do a lot of freelance magazine work for outdoor magazines, such as South Carolina Wildlife and Sporting Classics, and those often come with cool outdoor assignments. For hobbies, I mainly love to cook/eat, fish and read. 
 
Know someone that you’d like SCPA to spotlight? Email us your recommendations.

FOI Briefs

Editorial: Now that a judge has spoken, will SC Commerce Department finally come clean?

South Carolina has always allowed state and local agencies to hide too much information from the public, and it has given the Commerce Department extra room to keep the public in the dark when it gives away our money to entice companies to our state.
Yet the agency’s responses to Freedom of Information requests about its incentives still read more like a stand-up comedian’s send-up of government secrecy than a serious attempt to comply with its obligations under state law.
From The Post and Courier | Read more

Editorial: SC judge’s rebuke of Richland payout a good reminder to all local governments

How the Richland County Council squanders tax money isn’t really a matter of concern to people outside Richland County.
What a judge said about one of the council’s most notorious money-squandering escapades, however, is.
That’s because Circuit Judge Jocelyn Newman’s order invalidating the council’s $1 million payout to a county administrator who was unlawfully fired, then unfired, then lawfully fired and then paid off after he threatened to spill the beans on some council members hinges not on whether Gerald Seals deserved the money — that’s a policy question, not a legal question — but on whether the council paid him off in compliance with the state’s open meetings law. Which, Judge Newman found, it did not.
Her take-no-prisoners ruling was the first of two significant victories in less than a week for the public’s right to know how our government is spending our tax dollars.
From The Post and Courier | Read more

People & Papers

Editorial: Why we're going dark

We’re not OK.
For the next week, The Daily Gamecock will not be producing content of any kind.
At the beginning of the year, we made a promise to prioritize mental health not only in our coverage, but in our newsroom — in ourselves. This decision is a fulfillment of that commitment.
This semester has been taxing for a number of reasons. The days have become a structureless blur of breaking news, online meetings, quarantines and, of course, our usual course loads. We aimed to maintain regular levels of production and modified new staff recruitment and training to continue to grow our organization. With the recent shift to fully online reporting, we’ve had to adapt to new forms of communication and restructure procedure and content expectations.  
There was a general understanding that we were not well and that there was nothing we could do about it. We are choosing to disrupt that narrative.
From The Daily Gamecock, UofSC | Read more
Newberry Observer Publisher Andy Husk and Editor Andrew Wigger accept a proclamation from the City of Newberry declaring Oct. 4-10 as National Newspaper Week.

Industry Briefs

New study will assess the financial state of college newspapers

The University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications recently announced it has received a $30,000 grant from Lumina Foundation to study the financial state of college newspapers, with a focus on editorially independent student-run media and how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the sustainability of campus journalism.
COVID-19 has exposed both the fragility of the nation’s local news organizations and the importance of student-run media as front-line providers of essential public health and safety information to college communities. The Washington Post recently called college newspaper editors “the journalism heroes for the pandemic era,” noting that student-run news organizations were “producing essential work from the center of the nation’s newest coronavirus hot spots.”
There is evidence that student media are suffering the same extinction risks as professional news organizations. Recently, editors of the Massachusetts Daily Collegian newspaper at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst launched a crowdfunding donation campaign to erase a $30,000 debt, while campus newspapers elsewhere are selling their buildings, cutting print editions, and eliminating staff salaries to make ends meet.
From the University of Florida | Read more

Opinion: Journalism can do more than report on racial injustice. It can also help solve it.

It’s no accident that the cultural touchstone that’s incited reactionary panic at the highest levels of media and government is a work of journalism.
In just the last month, Nikole Hannah-Jones’ Pulitzer Prize-winning “1619 Project” has inspired a critical piece by a columnist from the project’s own New York Times, faced calls for Hannah-Jones to be stripped of her Pulitzer Prize, and prompted the president  — egged on by scandalized white historians and infuriated white supremacists nationwide — to unveil the 1776 Commission. Described as an effort to promote “patriotic education,” the commission is in fact an attempt to reassert white folks and their institutions as the protagonists of the American story after “The 1619 Project” claimed the center of the nation’s narrative for Black Americans and, in the process, shook the old fairy tale to the core.
But while the project represents an existential threat to the white-centered version of the story of America, on the whole journalism has more often adapted and reinforced it.
Now, as journalists collectively reckon with racial justice both in coverage and in newsrooms’ demographics and power dynamics, examining the power of story — and the way narrative devices have shaped the ways the industry has understood and reported race in America up to this point — can reveal how we arrived here and where we ought to go next.
By Ashton Lattimore, Prism | Poynter | Read more

Managing metrics that matter for subscriptions

Mike Denison, audience engagement editor at Science News, sees analytics and metrics as a tool to “cut through the noise and look beyond page views.” This year at ONA20, learning about the importance of analytics and metrics has shown to be of growing interest for the industry at a time when newsrooms are looking to deepen connections with their audience and expand revenue possibilities. 
Using data to gain insight on what resonates with your intended audience
Taking the time to communicate with editors and reporters in your newsroom about metrics on what they’re covering is extremely beneficial, according to Adrienne Shih, audience engagement editor at the Los Angeles Times. Not only does the editorial side learn more about the newsroom’s audience, but they’re also deepening their understanding of what their audience wants. By using data as an audience listening tool, you have the ability to create strategies on how best to allocate resources or what topics to pursue that readers have historically shown high interest. Denison noted that this approach helps free “reporters from high-volume, low-reward stories” and onto a project or product that you know will do much better. 
By Tatyana Monnay, Reynolds Journalism Institute | Read more

Columns

By Jim Pumarlo, Newspaper Consultant

Pandemic no excuse for lazy reporting

Editors and reporters are facing some of their biggest challenges in gathering news during the pandemic. Access to everyday sources is increasingly limited with no relief on the horizon.
Reporters no longer can walk into offices unannounced, and appointments are restricted. Remote work remains the norm at many places.
And don’t expect immediate responses to phone calls. Individuals are often consumed by Zoom meetings as the new norm for communications.
Logistics are demanding enough to connect with your regular corps of newsmakers. Then consider everyday readers – the local names and faces who provide so many distinctive stories – who may be approached by a reporter for the first time. They are likely more hesitant – at least extra cautious – as they protect personal health.
Solid reporting still can be done during these extraordinary times, but it takes extra effort. Small and large newspapers are generating excellent stories not only on the pandemic but also on the everyday churn of news. Read more

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