Your connection to industry & member news
Your connection to industry & member news
Your connection to industry & member news  |  June 22, 2023
By Eric P. Robinson, USC School of Journalism and Mass Communications

'Running of the interns' highlights why federal courts should be open to cameras​

“On your mark. Get set. Go!”
These words were not actually called out in the federal courtroom where former president Donald Trump was arraigned on June 13. But that courtroom was effectively the starting line in a relay race of high school students hired by CNN to report on the arraignment, after Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman denied a media request to allow pooled camera access, or release an audio recording after the proceeding. Goodman also decided to exclude all electronic devices from the courthouse entirely.
This created hurdles to covering the proceedings, which CNN overcame by a complex logistical gameplan. The network hired local high school students to run handwritten notes from CNN reporters in the overflow room where reporters were able to view a live video feed of the arraignment to fellow students stationed at the two payphones (!) in the courthouse. Those payphones can make only local calls (!), so the highschoolers called a CNN production assistant’s personal cell phone—with a local Miami area code—located in an RV that CNN parked near the courthouse. A CNN regional director answered the phone and conveyed the bits of information to CNN’s Washington, D.C. bureau, where it was cleared for air and relayed to the anchors.
This Rube Goldberg-like setup to deliver the news of Trump’s arraignment is reminiscent of how media covered U.S. Supreme Court decisions before the court belatedly entered the internet era. Until just a few years ago, the court released its decisions as paper copies delivered to the press room on the ground floor of the court’s building. This led to a ritual called the “Running of the Interns” in which interns for TV news outlets covering the court would race to get the printed decisions to the news reporters waiting in front of the court to go immediately on-air with the rulings. The tradition disappeared when the court began releasing its decisions by posting them online.
The U.S. Supreme Court has been clear that the Constitution requires that criminal court proceedings should be generally open to the public and the press; and lower courts have extended this principles to most civil trials. The court added that closure is permissible only when absolutely necessary, and that such the closure must be limited only to what is necessary to protect the specific concern.
Access to courts by still and video cameras has a more checkered history. While most state courts now allow audio-visual coverage of their courts, the federal courts maintain archaic rules that still bar regarding still and video cameras from virtually all federal courtrooms, and even from many federal courthouse buildings entirely. Read more
Thanks to funding from the SCPA Foundation, "Earn Your Press Pass," a self-paced online training course is now available to SCPA members at no charge. Sign up to start learning! SCPA will also host a demo/Q&A on Tuesday, July 25 from 2-2:30 p.m. Let us know if you'd like to attend.

FOIA Briefs

Blythewood refuses to reveal MPA lawsuit costs

With a growing number of lawsuits flying between the Town of Blythewood, Mayor Bryan Franklin and MPA strategies, the cost for those lawsuits is also most likely growing exponentially, but no one – not even the councilmen, so they say – knows what those costs are, because the Town and Mayor Franklin refuse to release that information to the public.
To be sure that the public can not have access to those costs, in early 2022, the council changed the way they reported attorney fees on the Town’s monthly financial reports. All of the Town’s attorney fees, including the municipal attorney Pete Balthazar’s salary, are now lumped together into one number so that MPA and other lawsuit costs are no longer discernable to the public.
The lump sum of legal fees for the last three fiscal years (FY 2020-21, 2021-22 and through May, 2023) add up to $368,691.35. There is no breakout of the MPA legal fees. The Town hired Black in the spring of 2021 and the first lawsuit was filed in June, 2021.
On Feb. 10, 2023, The Voice submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Town Administrator Carroll Williamson for “copies of ledger listings of 1) any and all invoices the Town of Blythewood has received and 2) any and all payments issued by the Town that relate to MPA Strategies, Ashley Hunter, Joseph D. Dickey, Jr., and/or State and Frink Foundation for, but not limited to, any and all legal proceedings, counterclaims, attorneys’ fees, FOI fees, consultants, and/or other affairs. We ask that if there are any notations on the ledger listings or other related responses to this FOI request that would be protected by attorney-client privilege, that those notations be redacted and the requested ledger listings forwarded in response to this FOI.”
The Town officials, under attorney-client privilege, have informed Attorney David Black (who, in turn, informed The Voice on March 24, 2023) that they refuse to hand over those documents.
After noting a number of exceptions that the Town claims allow it to refuse to divulge how much it is spending on the MPA legal matters, the Town’s attorney, David Black, finally wrote that the Town does not keep a ledger listing of these legal expenses, and, therefore, is not required to create such a ledger.
Black also insists that supplying documents associated with the Town’s MPA legal expenses amounts to turning over work product and, therefore, are privileged.
Taylor Smith, an attorney representing the member newspapers of the S.C. Press Association, disagrees with Black’s exceptions.
“An attorney’s invoice to clients can vary in how much information is provided to explain a particular charge,” Taylor said. “What they rarely do, though, is divulge attorney-client protected information back to their client. Assuming these invoices even do have such confidential information, the state’s open record laws (FOIA) allow redaction of the info, not refusal to release the entire record.”
By Barbara Ball, The Voice of Blythewood | Read more

Rehearing in North Augusta FOIA case denied

The South Carolina Court of Appeals has denied a North Augusta man’s petition for a rehearing in a Freedom of Information Act case brought against the city of North Augusta, its mayor and Council.
“After careful consideration of the petition for rehearing, the Court is unable to discover that any material fact or principle of law has been either overlooked or disregarded, and hence, there is no basis for granting a rehearing,” the June 1 filing reads.
Attorneys for North Augustan H. Perry Holcomb filed the petition for rehearing on May 4, two weeks after the appeals court reversed an October 2019 ruling that favored Holcomb.
That earlier ruling, delivered by Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman, had determined the city of North Augusta was in the wrong when its city council made changes mid-meeting to a list of capital sales tax-funded projects that were then voted on that same evening.
Included in those changes was the addition of half a million dollars in sales tax funding for the controversial New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam.
By Elizabeth Hustad, Aiken Standard | Read more

Legal Briefs

SC judge declines to dismiss former Lex-Rich 5 school board member’s libel suit

A judge denied a motion to dismiss former Lexington-Richland School District Five board member Ken Loveless’ libel lawsuit against a current board member in a virtual hearing June 15.
Loveless filed the suit against Kevin Scully in March 2022, while he still served on the board and before Scully was elected. He alleged that Scully defamed him through Facebook posts, including ones calling Loveless “Crooked Ken” and an “unethical hypocrite and a liar.”
It was the first of two such lawsuits filed by Loveless that March. He also sued Leslie Ann Stiles, the administrator of a Facebook page about the school district, accusing her of not removing certain comments critical of Loveless made by others. Although Judge Clifton Newman turned down the dismissal motion in the lawsuit against Scully on June 15, in December a different judge dismissed the lawsuit against Stiles, calling it “irreparably flawed as a matter of law.”
However, in the lawsuit against Scully, Newman said a “legitimate dispute” exists between the two parties. 
By Ian Grenier, The Post and Courier Columbia | Read more

Everything you need to know about ‘actual malice’

In the days and weeks leading up to the April defamation trial between Fox News and Dominion Voting Systems, journalists and media lawyers across the country were asking the same question: Would Dominion be able to win the case by proving that Fox News acted with “actual malice,” a legal rule that requires a public figure like Dominion to show in court that the defendant knew or strongly suspected that a statement it published was false?
We never learned the answer to that question, as the two sides reached a nearly $800 million settlement just before opening arguments were scheduled to begin. But the discussion about actual malice and what the legal standard requires for a public official or public figure to prevail in a defamation lawsuit won’t end anytime soon. In fact, Fox News currently faces another defamation lawsuit brought by Smartmatic over the news outlet’s coverage of the 2020 election.
Because the term “actual malice” is so widely misunderstood — even by many journalists — we wanted to take a moment to break the legal standard down a bit. In this piece, we’ll explain what actual malice really means (and, importantly, what it doesn’t mean), what it takes for a defamation plaintiff to establish actual malice, and how the legal standard benefits journalists and the public.
By Emily Hockett and Chris Young, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press | Read more

People & Papers


Phillips, Taylor named top editors at Post and Courier ahead of new venture launch

Changes are coming to top leadership positions at The Post and Courier as South Carolina’s largest newspaper continues to grow and expand its offerings.
Executive Editor Autumn Phillips has been promoted to the newly created position of editor-in-chief, effective Aug. 1. In this role, Phillips will oversee two significant growth opportunities for the newspaper: philanthropic fundraising and the launch of a new venture in which she will lead readers on international trips.
“Autumn is a veteran world traveler and journalist,” Publisher P.J. Browning said. “She will teach participants how to write about the journey as a way of deepening the experience.”
Veteran journalist Jeff Taylor has been hired as The Post and Courier’s new executive editor after a national search. Taylor, who also will start Aug. 1, is an award-winning newsman who most recently served as vice president and executive editor for news and investigations at USA Today.
Jeff comes to us with a tremendous background as a journalist and has held many executive leadership positions,” Browning said.
For Phillips, the move allows her to keenly focus on two of her driving passions: writing and travel. During her 5½ years at The Post and Courier, she has written several pieces about her sojourns to far-flung places such as Lebanon, Sudan and Kyrgyzstan. Beginning next year, she will bring readers along on her journeys.
Trips are in the works for several destinations, including Argentina, Portugal, Northern Ireland, India, Mongolia, Cambodia, and Rwanda.
These Post and Courier trips will include conversations with political and historical experts, archeologists, conservationists, chefs and farmers, artists and writers so travelers leave with a well-rounded view of the culture, history and context of the country visited, Browning said.
As she considered her next chapter, Phillips said, her path quickly became clear. “I want to travel. I want to write. And I want to build community and make life fun and interesting for other people,” she said.
By Glenn Smith, The Post and Courier | Read more

Hensley named digital editor at Aiken Standard

Matthew Hensley has been named digital editor for the Aiken Standard. He is responsible for content on the website and its associated social media channels.
Before joining the Standard, Hensley was managing editor of the Index-Journal newspaper. During his eight-year stint in Greenwood, he led the newsroom to more than 200 awards and four President’s Awards for Excellence from the South Carolina Press Association and was involved in The Post and Courier’s statewide investigative collaboration, Uncovered.

Benjy Hamm named IRJCI director to succeed semi-retiring Al Cross; effective August 16

The University of Kentucky’s Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, dedicated to helping sustain local journalism in rural America, will have a new director on Aug. 16.
He is Benjamin R. “Benjy” Hamm, who has held leadership positions for nearly 30 years in news-media organizations including Landmark Media Enterprises, the New York Times Co. and The Associated Press. For the last four years, he has taught journalism at Campbellsville University in Kentucky.
Hamm will be associate extension professor in UK’s School of Journalism and Media, part of the College of Communication and Information. He will succeed the institute’s founding director, Al Cross, who will become part-time director emeritus and remain extension professor in the journalism school.
“I could not think of a better successor than Benjy Hamm,” Cross said. “His career has given him a deep, broad understanding of rural journalism and its challenges, and I look forward to working with him to help rural communities sustain local journalism that serves democracy.”
Hamm led the news operations of more than 70 newspapers, online sites and college-sports publications for Landmark Community Newspapers of Shelbyville, one of the nation’s leading community-news publishers before it was sold two years ago.
Previously, he was managing editor of The Herald-Journal, then a New York Times paper in Spartanburg, S.C.; editor of the thrice-weekly Lancaster News in South Carolina, and an AP reporter and editor. He has a master’s degree in mass communications from the University of South Carolina and is also a graduate of Catawba College. He is a native of Salisbury, N.C.
From Kentucky Press Association  | Read more
High school athletes surround Sumter sports legend Bobby Richardson at The Item's inaugural sports awards show named in his honor, The Bobbys, on Thursday at the Sumter Opera House. (Photo by Micah Green, The Sumter Item)

The Bobbys a success as The Item’s inaugural prep sports awards show

Whenever you’re trying something new, there are always nerves involved. I did my fair share of pacing around the Sumter Opera House on Thursday trying to memorize a script I wrote for myself so I could avoid staring at a sheet of paper all night at The Bobbys. But all of that stress melted away throughout the night, as award after award was announced without a hitch during The Sumter Item's inaugural high school sports awards show.
It was a night to remember thanks to the spectacular folks who made it happen, our sponsors, Thompson, Simpson Hardware and Sports, Nu-Idea School Supply, Wright Way Plumbing, Sumter Trophies and Engraving, who provided the incredible trophies that were presented to our winners, and Hines Furniture, as we opened the night celebrating our Hines Furniture Athlete of the Year. A huge shout out to Scott Estep with J. O’Grady’s for providing some of his incredible memorabilia collection to help decorate the stage.
The award show’s namesake, Bobby Richardson, was a delight to have as our keynote speaker. If Bobby Richardson is speaking, it’s worth the price of admission. I loved hearing him talk to the next generation of athletes. It was so cool seeing them flood the stage to get a photo with the Sumter and Yankees legend.
Of course, any event is a dud if no one shows up. A huge thank you goes to everyone who came out to support and celebrate these athletes. We had a great crowd at the Sumter Opera House, which served as an excellent host.
This is just the start for The Bobbys. As we continue to grow the awards show, we’ll look into adding new categories and bringing on more sponsors to help award scholarships. I can’t wait to see how the event blossoms for years to come.
By Tim Lieble, The Sumter Item | Read more

Industry Briefs

Gannett sues Google, accusing company of violating antitrust laws in digital ad practices

Gannett, the parent company of USA TODAY and more than 200 news publications across the country, is suing Google over its digital advertising practices.
The federal lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Tuesday, accuses Google of monopolizing advertising technology markets, using “deceptive commercial practices” and violating U.S. antitrust and consumer protection laws.
“Google controls 90% of the market for ‘publisher ad servers,’ which publishers use to offer ad space for sale,” Gannett said in a statement. “Google also controls over 60% of the market for ‘ad exchanges,’ which run auctions among advertisers bidding for ad space on publishers’ websites.” 
Publishers rely on revenue from digital ads to fund operations. Gannett is the largest publisher in the U.S. 
“News publishers depend on digital ad revenue to provide timely, cutting-edge reporting and essential content communities rely on, yet Google’s practices have had negative implications that depress not only revenue, but also force the reduction and footprint of local news,” Gannett’s CEO Mike Reed said in a statement. “Without free and fair competition for digital ad space, publishers cannot invest in their newsrooms."
By Eve Chen, USA TODAY | Read more

How local officials seek revenge on their hometown newspapers

Two of the most powerful women in the village of Delhi in central New York sat face to face in a brick building on Main Street for what would become a fight over the First Amendment.
It was the fall of 2019. Tina Molé, the top elected official in Delaware County, was demanding that Kim Shepard, the publisher of The Reporter, the local newspaper, “do something” about what Ms. Molé saw as the paper’s unfair coverage of the county government.
Ms. Shepard stood her ground. Not long after, Ms. Molé struck where it would hurt The Reporter the most: its finances. The county stripped the newspaper of a lucrative contract to print public notices, subsequently informing The Reporter that the decision was partly based on “the manner in which your paper reports county business.”
The move cost The Reporter about $13,000 a year in revenue — a significant blow to a newspaper with barely 4,000 subscribers.
In most of the country, state and local laws require public announcements — about town meetings, elections, land sales and dozens of other routine occurrences — to be published in old-fashioned, print-and-ink newspapers, as well as online, so that citizens are aware of matters of public note. The payments for publishing these notices are among the steadiest sources of revenue left for local papers.
Sometimes, though, public officials revoke the contracts in an effort to punish their hometown newspapers for aggressive coverage of local politics.
Such retaliation is not new, but it appears to be occurring more frequently now, when terms like “fake news” have become part of the popular lexicon.
In recent years, newspapers in Colorado, North Carolina, New Jersey and California, as well as New York, have been stripped of their contracts for public notices after publishing articles critical of their local governments. Some states, like Florida, are going even further, revoking the requirement that such notices have to appear in newspapers.
By Emily Flitter, The New York Times | Read more

News/Media Alliance applauds Senate Judiciary for passing bipartisan Journalism Competition and Preservation Act

The Senate Judiciary Committee has favorably voted 14-7 for the bipartisan Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) (S. 1094), which would allow digital journalism providers to collectively negotiate with Google and Facebook for fair compensation for use of their valuable content. The tech platforms are the dominant distributors of news content, reaping tremendous financial benefit without compensation to those who create the content. They also capture the majority of U.S. digital ad revenue, leaving local publishers with little to reinvest in the production of high-quality journalism.
“For too long, Big Tech has profited from using news content on their platforms, without paying the creators of that content. The JCPA will give small and local publishers a seat at the table and channel critical revenue to them to help sustain the high-quality journalism Americans need and depend on,” said News/Media Alliance President & CEO Danielle Coffey. “We applaud Chairwoman Klobuchar and Senator Kennedy for their enduring commitment to preserving journalism and their ongoing support of the JCPA. We applaud the Senate Judiciary Committee’s passage of this monumental legislation for journalism publishers across our country.”
The JCPA has broad support, not only in Congress in both the House and the Senate (16 co-sponsors in the 118th Congress to date, on both sides of the aisle, with 90 total co-sponsors in the previous Congress), but also from over 300 consumer interest groups, unions, conservatives, advocacy groups and third-party organizations that have sent letters of support for the JCPA to the bill sponsors.
From the News/Media Alliance | Read more

Opinion journalism and sustainability: Publishers find out what works

Opinion journalism has been subject to unrelenting pressures in recent years. The political environment has become more toxic. There is confusion about what’s news and what’s opinion. People’s opinions today can be influenced as much by random posts on social media as by a well-crafted editorial.
Less discussed is the relationship between opinion content and revenue. And, like most everything else in digital publishing, the financial calculation is becoming a necessary part of the conversation about the future of opinion journalism. 
Opinion section leaders are not shying away from the conversation. Eager to prove that their content contributes to their news organizations’ financial health, they are experimenting with formats like newsletters, video, podcasts and events. To drive engagement and widen their audiences, they’re bringing in more voices from the community, sometimes writing or recording first-person narratives, and in the process de-emphasizing the omniscient tone — the editorial “we.” They are also organizing their teams to ensure that opinion content is getting attention from audience and engagement editors so that they can measure — and demonstrate — opinion content’s contribution to their organizations’ overall financial sustainability.
Opinion sections have been evolving for several years. In 2019, API explored this evolution, noting a new urgency brought on by rapid changes in the industry and a polarized political environment. That work continues today. At a recent API local news opinion summit in Austin, more than 50 opinion editors came together for a frank and searching conversation about their roles in their communities and the sustainability of their institutions. Some participants agreed to be quoted here in follow-up interviews. Insights are drawn from those conversations as well as with others in or adjacent to the publishing industry.  
By Susan Benkelman, American Press Institute | Read more


Sara and Brett Borton

Former Island Packet sports editor, community leader Brett Borton dies

Brett writes to Sara, “There are times in your life when you find yourself in a once-in-a lifetime, truly unforgettable setting, and it is still a little sad because you cannot share it with your one true love. The early morning mist that envelopes the beautiful, lush valleys in Scotland leaves indelible memories only tarnished by your absence.”
Brett died in that beautiful setting Tuesday, May 30, 2023, in a coastal village in northern Scotland. He had just completed a round of golf with a group of friends, including one of his dearest friends, Steve Daigle.
Brett, whose heart beat with great love for his family and friends, his students and colleagues, his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, stopped beating. Brett will live on in the hearts of all who loved him.
The youngest of four children, Brett was born to Art and Betty Borton on Aug. 25, 1958. After graduating from Ohio University with a degree in journalism, Brett returned to Wilmington as sports editor of the Wilmington News-Journal. He moved to Hilton Head in 1982 after accepting a job as sports editor for The Island Packet. Brett met his wife of 39 years, Sara, when she started work at The Packet in 1983. They dedicated themselves to each other and the community they loved. Read more

Longtime Newberry Observer pressman Mac Livingston dies

Marion "Mac" J. Livingston, 77, of Newberry, died on Tuesday, June 6, 2023, at his residence.
Born on June 20, 1945, in Newberry, he was a son of the late Arthur O'Neal Livingston and the late Bessie Long Livingston Overstreet Turner.
Mac was a member of Bethany Lutheran Church and a veteran of the United States Air Force.
He worked for many years as the pressman for Newberry Publishing which among other things, published The Newberry Observer. He took great pride in his work and won numerous awards for his craft. He was a former member of the Press Association and retired from The Newberry Observer in 2007, after 37 years of service.
Mac was extremely active in his community. He was a Life Member of the Amity Lodge and member of the Newberry Chapter 226 and Little Mountain Chapter 276 Order of the Eastern Star. He was involved in many Square -Dancing clubs across the state of South Carolina. Mac loved square dancing and was a strong advocate for the art, recruiting people to participate in the fun and join the square-dancing circles. He was recognized for his efforts and received the Distinguished Service Award. Read more
By John Foust, Advertising Trainer

Don’t sell your clients short

Gene told me about an experience he had when he was fundraising for the Boy Scouts. “I was young and completely sold on the value of scouting because some years earlier I had earned the designations of Eagle Scout and Order of the Arrow,” he said. “My boss asked me to visit a Mr. Jones, who had been a big contributor to scouting for a long time. I knocked on his door, and he welcomed me with a big smile. When we sat down in his living room, I thanked him for his support and asked if he would like to make a generous contribution of $2,500 for that year. He enthusiastically agreed, pulled out his checkbook and wrote a check. 
“When I got back to the office and proudly showed the check to my boss, he patted me on the back and said, ‘Gene, Mr. Jones is such a loyal supporter that he would have written a check for just about any amount you suggested, even more than $2,500.’  
“That was in the days before computer spreadsheets and easily access to previous years’ records,” Gene explained. “But I still felt responsible for not doing some advance research. My boss never told me what happened next, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he asked Mr. Jones to increase his contribution. It was an important lesson.”
Gene’s story applies to anyone in sales. Just about all of us have undersold our products and services at times. When you’re upselling, here are some points to keep in mind:
1. Research. As soon as his boss told him about the missed opportunity, Gene realized that he should have done some homework. In today’s world, we have lots of research tools, including in-house records on years of advertisers’ budgets and expenditures, spreadsheets, online searches of company histories and growth plans, and notes from others in your advertising department. Read more

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