Your connection to industry & member news
Your connection to industry & member news
Your connection to industry & member news  |  Aug. 11, 2022

Dreher retires after more than 30 years as SCPA lobbyist

Cathy Dreher retired on July 31 after serving for more than 30 years as the lobbyist for the S.C. Press Association. 
Dreher was hired by SCPA in 1989 as its first and only lobbyist. 
“Ironically when she began lobbying for SCPA she wasn’t a fan of the press, having come from a political family, but we converted her,” said retired SCPA Executive Director Bill Rogers. “Her concern for free speech went back to high school. She was almost expelled for giving an unapproved speech to the student body. She wouldn’t buckle to the administration.”
After attending Converse College and graduating from UofSC, she later received a master’s degree in mass communications from UofSC. 
Before receiving her master’s degree, Dreher was a staff member for the House for eight years, where she learned valuable nuances and developed connections that benefited the SCPA greatly during her tenure.
Dreher helped SCPA solidify a presence in the State House and had many successes during her career. She frequently fought battles related to public notice, open government and taxing newspapers. 
“Cathy did an amazing job for over three decades,” Rogers said. “She’s saved our bacon many times.”
Dreher helped increase SCPA's visibility by securing SCPA as the sole sponsor of the S.C. State House Renovation Gala in 1998. She’s also been responsible for SCPA’s popular Legislative Workshop for the Media and was key in planning SCPA’s regional Legislative Luncheons and two weekly TV program collaborations with SCETV, This Week in the House and This Week in the Senate, which later became This Week in the State House.
“We are so thankful for all that Cathy has done to advocate for S.C. newspapers and the public’s right to know,” SCPA Co-Executive Director Jen Madden said. “Her knowledge, insight and strategy have made all the difference in our victories at the State House.”

Sept. ad sales training filling up

There are only a dozen seats remaining for our ad sales training featuring sales strategist Ryan Dohrn! Join us in Columbia on Friday, Sept. 16, as SCPA hosts Ryan for a full day of practical, innovative and inspirational ad sales advice.
Thanks to sponsorship from the SCPA Foundation Smoak Fund, the cost to attend is only $65, which includes a boxed lunch. Don't wait to sign up... this event will sell out soon!

Contact SCPA for SLED background checks

A reminder that SCPA is able to run free S.C. Law Enforcement Division criminal background checks for S.C. newspaper journalists.
To obtain a SLED check, please call SCPA during business hours at (803) 750-9561. You must provide the person's full name and date of birth. An SCPA staffer will email you the results within minutes.
SLED criminal record checks are for news stories only, including background checks on candidates for office.You may not run a check through SCPA on potential employees.
After hours and on weekends, reporters must go to the SLED website and pay the $25 fee. 
Congratulations to Cathy Hughes on her retirement after 50 years with The Times and Democrat, 23 of the years as the newspaper’s publisher. Monday night Co-Executive Directors Randall Savely and Jen Madden, retired SCPA Executive Director Bill Rogers and SCPA Attorney Jay Bender presented Hughes with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Hughes served as the President of SCPA in 2003 and had an amazing career dedicated to serving her newspaper, community and the newspaper industry. We're thankful for her leadership and support of SCPA over the years.
SCPA staff visited the Charleston City Paper on Wednesday to present their 2022 PALMY Advertising Awards. The City Paper won the President's Award for Best Overall Weekly Newspaper Advertising and Best of Show in the Over 12,000 Division.

"Manatee mermaids" by Robert Ariail

If you can't get enough of award-winning Camden cartoonist Robert Ariail, enjoy his new strip featured every week in the Charleston City Paper, which has granted us ongoing permission to republish it. Called "Lowcountry," the weekly feature, which is available for syndication in South Carolina newspapers, focuses on politics, human nature, the environment and public policy. More: Contact publisher Andy Brack.

FOI Briefs

SC’s top prosecutor asks McMaster to investigate Midlands school district spending

South Carolina’s attorney general is asking the governor to investigate a Midlands school district.
Alan Wilson wrote to Gov. Henry McMaster Tuesday to ask the governor to investigate purchase card spending in Richland 1, alleging school district employees have misspent thousands of taxpayer dollars on improper purchases, including charges at grocery stores, restaurants, florists and dry cleaners.
In the letter, Wilson cites McMaster’s recent request that the state’s inspector general conduct an investigation of the Richland 2 school district under a new state law. Wilson said he has “recently received many of the same kind of complaints” about Richland 1’s spending and requests a similar investigation of the district’s purchasing card program.
“(S)uch alleged misuse of public funds can even amount to misconduct in office, carrying stiff criminal penalties if proven in court,” Wilson wrote. “These types of criminal violations should be vigorously prosecuted.”
Wilson cited examples of alleged misspending in his letter, citing Richland 1’s own internal audit of its spending program. That audit cited 1,071 purchases from blocked businesses recorded on district employees’ “p-cards” in 2020, totaling more than $148,000. Money was spent on “grocery stores, fast food restaurants, florists, dry cleaners, and civil, social, and fraternal groups,” the letter claims. ...
Wilson says he has concerns about other school district conduct as well, including whether districts properly post notice of public meetings according to state’s Freedom of Information Act.
By Bristow Marchant, The State | Read more

Update: Richland County Council missing minutes

With much of the public unaware, Richland County Council, on Nov. 16, 2021, adopted an ordinance for a new Land Development Code (LDC) that would require every parcel in the unincorporated (primarily rural areas of) Richland County to be rezoned in one fell swoop. That’s over 110,000 parcels.
To make the Code fully operational, however, the council would have to approve the amended LDC and amend the zoning map.
As Richland County planning staff pushes the planning commission and county council to fast track an unpopular mass rezoning plan for the entire unincorporated area of the county, much information as not been transparent for the public – most noticeably, the minutes from many of the planning commission meetings, as far back as three years.
Council members, planning commission members and citizens have all asked multiple times for the minutes of the meetings to be posted.
Some of the missing minutes – dating as far back as 2019 – have not even been approved, including those from the crucial June 14, 2021 meeting when the planning commission recommended the new LDC amendments to council. Most of this year’s minutes have not been approved or made public.
By Barbara Ball, The Voice of Blythewood | Read more

Former Goose Creek officer accused of sexual misconduct with student had prior accusation

A former school resource officer arrested last week on a child pornography offense was previously accused of “improperly frisking” a student, according to a city spokesman. 
The Goose Creek Police Department deemed the 2018 allegation against Conrad Sands Stayton unfounded after an internal investigation, said Frank Johnson, spokesman for the city. Stayton was allowed to remain post adviser for the department’s Explorer program, which encourages young people to become police officers, until earlier this year. 
Johnson said Police Chief LJ Roscoe was unaware of the 2018 allegations against Stayton — it was investigated and closed before she took over the department in 2019.
Stayton, 40, is accused of keeping 15 lewd photos of a 17-year-old student from Stratford High School on his personal cellphone. He was released from jail on bail while awaiting trial on charges of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor and misconduct in office. ...
City officials declined to release a report from the internal investigation into the 2018 incident, saying SLED asked that documents not be released while its investigation was ongoing. The Post and Courier has filed a request under the S.C. Freedom of Information Act for the report. 
By Ali Rockett, The Post and Courier | Read more

Fairfield County pays $50,000 to wife of county councilman in unorthodox settlement

Fairfield County Council has settled a complaint filed by a former county employee who is the wife of a sitting county councilman.
The county signed an agreement on July 12 to pay $50,000 to Diana Robinson, former Director of the county’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) in exchange for her agreeing to not bring further complaints or a lawsuit against the county.
County Council members Douglas Pauley and Clarence Gilbert and other county officials say the negotiations for the settlement, which were not part of a lawsuit, were conducted outside standard county procedures. ...
“We were provided with no materials, evidence, complaints or anything during executive session related to the issue – why she was given a termination letter, then decided to resign,” Gilbert said. “Mr. Pauley asked [County Administrator] Malik [Whitaker] for her file and any documentation of the circumstances of the issue. He also asked to have Mr. [Brad] Caulder [Human Resources Director] brought in to explain the issues of Ms. Robinson’s resignation, since he was the one who had handled it during the tine he was serving as Interim County Administrator. 
“Mr. Whitaker denied both requests. In fact, Mr. Whitaker said there was nothing in Ms. Robinson’s file, which we now know was not true. I understand now that there was a large file of information available that could have been given to us to review.”
In an email sent by Caulder to council members on June 24, 2022, which was obtained by The Voice through an FOIA request, Caulder made it clear he did not know a settlement was going to be proposed.
By Barbara Ball, The Voice of Fairfield County | Read more
Related: The highly unusual handling of the Robinson complaint and settlement ( By Barbara Ball, The Voice of Fairfield County)

SLED investigating allegations made against Williamsburg County DSN, state agency confirms

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is investigating allegations of abuse, neglect and exploitation by the Williamsburg County Board of Disabilities and Special needs, according to a statement by the state Department of Disabilities and Special Needs. 
South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs (SC DDSN) officials initiated an administrative review at the Williamsburg County Disabilities and Special Needs Board (WCDSN) July 26 in response to “allegations of abuse, neglect, and exploitation which were reported to the SC State Law Enforcement Division. Those allegations are currently being investigated by local law enforcement.”...
On July 22, the Williamsburg County Disabilities and Special Needs Board, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, said that only one “grievance” had been filed in the last year with the board and that was about “an employee or former employee appealing certain enumerated job actions specifically as to that employee” and therefore was exempt from the FOIA request.
By Brandon Alter, The News, Kingstree | Read more

Legal Briefs

Lawyer wants Mallory Beach attorney removed, subpoenas phone records with SC reporters

A defense attorney in a lawsuit connected to the death of Mallory Beach has sent subpoenas demanding that his opposing counsel turn over conversations he’s had with journalists, including those at the The State, Island Packet, and Beaufort Gazette. Beach was killed in 2019 when Paul Murdaugh, the son of disgraced former attorney Alex Murdaugh, crashed his family’s boat into a bridge after a night of drinking. It was the first public incident in a chain of events that has seen Alex Murdaugh charged with murdering his wife and Paul. The Beach family initially sued convenience store owner Gregory Parker, alleging Paul, then 20, purchased alcohol from the store with his brother’s ID before the crash. In the midst of that litigation, the Beaches sued Parker again after images of Mallory Beach’s body and sections of a confidential presentation were leaked to investigative journalist and former CNN reporter Vicky Ward. ...
While South Carolina has a shield law for journalists that generally protects them from turning over documents,the law may offer few protections in this kind of case.
“I don’t know of any way that a news organization or reporter could quash a subpoena not directed at the news organization or reporter,” said Jay Bender, a longtime media lawyer in South Carolina whose clients have included The State.
By Ted Clifford, The State | Read more

Editorial: A rare SC win for open government

When it comes to open government, we don’t get a lot of wins in South Carolina, so we need to celebrate them when they do come.
As The Post and Courier’s Avery Wilks reports, a high-profile one came on Monday, when S.C. Circuit Judge Clifton Newman denied a joint request from the defense and the prosecution to issue a breathtaking gag order in the double-murder case against the now-infamous Lowcountry attorney Alex Murdaugh.
In the first hearing in what is sure to be one of South Carolina’s most closely watched trials ever, the two sides had asked the judge not only to gag all parties but also to issue an extraordinary order that would have given the attorneys the power — without the judge’s involvement — to decide which if any court filings the public would be able to see.
Judge Newman’s order wasn’t precisely a surprise, since he had responded skeptically to the request during Mr. Murdaugh’s bond hearing last month. But it’s significant that when it came time to actually issue a ruling, he held firm and didn’t give in to the split-the-baby formulation where the lawyers get a little bit of what they want and the public gets a little bit of what we are promised by the state constitution.
It’s significant too that neither the news media nor any public interest groups had to get involved and argue for openness — that Judge Newman recognized his duties under our state constitution and under clear and constant S.C. Supreme Court precedents and rules.
From The Post and Courier | Read more

People & Papers

We had a blast getting to see some new and familiar faces at our Grand Strand regional Happy Hour last week in Conway! For members in other areas of the state, we're planning similar networking events across the state, including a Midlands Happy Hour on Sept. 22 in West Columbia. 
A SC politician infamously slayed The State newspaper founder. Now, the story comes to stage. A dress rehearsal for Composure, a play by Jason Stokes, at Trustus Theatre in Columbia on Aug. 9, 2022. In this scene, Terrance Henderson, playing Ambrose Gonzales, decides a reporter from the News and Courier should take over The State’s coverage of the trial over his brother’s killing.  Photo by Joshua Boucher, The State.
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Industry Briefs

API Election Coverage & Community Listening Fund applications due Aug. 17

Do you have new ideas to improve your newsroom’s relationship with your communities through election coverage this year? The American Press Institute is accepting applications from local news organizations for small-project funding to support these efforts. Eligible local news outlets can apply for funds through Aug. 17, 2022 in amounts from $1,500 to $5,000 per newsroom.
The grants are being awarded as part of API’s 2022 Election Coverage & Community Listening Fund, a program aimed at empowering news organizations to implement community listening approaches in their elections coverage between now and Nov. 2022. We hope these efforts yield important lessons for 2023 and 2024 that can be shared through journalism networks and conversations facilitated by API. 
From American Press Institute | Read more

Are we in a recession? 4 things journalists should know when covering an economic downturn

The U.S. economy, as measured by gross domestic product, slumped for two consecutive quarters to start 2022, according to recently released federal data, some of which is preliminary and may be revised in several weeks.
In the last few days, some news outlets all but outright declared a recession, while others were more guarded, considering that other topline economic data, such as the unemployment rate, is in line with a healthy, growing economy.
Conflicting economic information is what makes this recent GDP decline an unreliable recession harbinger. It’s important for journalists to aim for clarity in headlines and coverage and to help audiences understand what a recession is and isn’t, who decides when the economy is in recession, and what really matters to most Americans’ economic perceptions.
Keep reading for our four tips aimed at helping journalists make sense of the potential outset of an economic downturn.
By Clark Merrefield, The Journalist's Resource | Read more


By Jim Pumarlo, Newspaper Consultant

Plan now to recognize first responders

Are you looking for a project that can energize your news staffs, generate new advertising revenue and underscore the value of a local newspaper to potential new subscribers?
Mark Oct. 28: National First Responders Day.
Full disclosure on two fronts.                                            
First, highlighting the accomplishments of first responders is not my original idea. I picked it up while presenting earlier this year at a Management Boot Camp sponsored by the Texas Center for Community Journalism.
Second, I am not a fan of most proclamations. They are a dime a dozen and largely an opportunity for some official – most often the mayor – to get his or her name and photo in the local newspaper. The local affiliate typically submits a press release from the parent state or national organization – verbatim – inserting its name in a half-dozen spots.
However, proclamations can be worthwhile and substantive with local content. Think of the past two years and the performance of first responders during the pandemic and social unrest in the course of everyday routines. This collective group of individuals from firefighters and police to paramedics and EMTs is worthy of recognition.
Best yet, this project can involve all aspects of your operations from newsroom to advertising to circulation. Read more

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