Your connection to industry & member news
Your connection to industry & member news
Your connection to industry & member news  |  Aug. 26, 2021

Place your ad in the 2022 SC Media Directory by Sept. 10

Now is the time to place an ad in the S.C. Press Association's annual guide to the Palmetto State's news media. The S.C. Media Directory is an important reference tool that includes detailed information on the state's newspapers including contact information, key personnel, circulation and readership, advertising information (including deadlines and mechanical requirements), listings by county, DMA info and more. The directory also includes info about South Carolina's college newspapers, radio stations, TV stations, SCPA's Associate and Individual members and commercial print providers.
A variety of ad sizes are available. Rates start as low as $150. Discounted rates are available for SCPA newspaper, collegiate, associate and individual members.
The deadline to advertise is Sept. 10. The guide will be published in October. If you're interested in advertising, contact Jen Madden.

Are you a news organization leader who is new to SCPA?

SCPA is hosting a virtual New Editor/Publisher/Manager Orientation on Friday, Sept. 10, from 2-2:30 p.m. via Zoom.
If you are a key leader at your news organization, we invite you to learn more about SCPA's member services, legal/FOI Hotline, SLED Checks, lobbying, training, contests, communications, resources and ad representation. 
This will be an informal space to get information and ask questions. 
We can't wait to meet our new members in person, but in the meantime, we hope you'll stop by our Zoom to chat with us and some of your peers.
Please let Jen Madden know if you'd like to attend and we'll send you the link. 

Aïda Rogers contributes to SC News Exchange

SCPA member Aïda Rogers has started contributing columns to the S.C. News Exchange.
Rogers is a veteran journalist who loves a great story and a salty quote. A graduate of USC’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications, Aïda spent 30 years writing for newspapers, magazines, newsletters and websites. She conceived and edited the three-volume anthology series State of the Heart: South Carolina Writers on the Places They Love, for the University of South Carolina Press. Her feature writing has won awards from The National Better Newspaper Contest, the South Carolina Press Association, and the Society of Professional Journalists. Her work on My Tour through the Asylum: An Integrationist’s Memoir (the University of South Carolina Press) received a 2017 silver IPPY from the Independent Publisher Book Awards.
By day she works for the South Carolina Honors College, where she writes about alumni, manages its annual S.C. High School Writing Contest and teaches “Finding Your Voice: Writing and Editing for Life.” She also writes for the Carolina Family Engagement Center, within the university’s College of Education, which focuses on improving the education and lives of underserved families. By night she eats ice cream.
Aïda and her husband, Wally, enjoy spending time with their two Boykin spaniels, Bonnie and Ginger, in Columbia during the week and in McClellanville, on weekends. There they’ve perfected the finer arts of nap-taking, porch-sitting, Lowcountry-exploring and PBS-watching.  Read Aïda's first column on the S.C. News Exchange.
Other regular contributors to the S.C. News Exchange include Tom Poland, Michael M. DeWitt, Jr., Dr. William Holland and Stuart Neiman.
The S.C. News Exchange is a cooperative sharing site exclusively for use by SCPA members. If you have something you would like to share, please contact Jen Madden.

Quote of the Week

"We hope Judge McIntosh’s order will give more people the incentive to file lawsuits challenging actions that are plotted out in illegal secret meetings, and encourage public bodies to stop skirting our open-meeting law in the first place."

"Personal Responsibility" 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

Will LR5 sue their critics in ongoing staffing drama? The school board will let them

The Lexington-Richland 5 school board gave approval to taking legal action in response to recent challenges to the resignation of the district’s former superintendent and the hiring of an interim replacement.
The board approved the district taking legal action against three former superintendents and two former school board chairmen who filed a complaint with the district’s accrediting agency challenging the contract with Interim Superintendent Akil Ross. ...
By a 6-0 vote, the board also authorized the district to file a counterclaim to a lawsuit filed by The State’s senior editor Paul Osmundson, challenging the board reaching a closed-door settlement with former superintendent Christina Melton prior to Melton’s resignation in June. The suit, brought on behalf of The State newspaper, argues that agreement violates South Carolina’s Freedom of Information Act, which limits what public bodies can do without discussion and a vote in a public meeting.
Board members argued the suit is moot because since it was filed, the school board approved a settlement agreement with Melton in a public vote on Aug. 9, more than a month after Melton left the district. The State’s lawsuit also challenges Lexington-Richland 5’s policy of holding closed door meetings of board officers ahead of its public board meetings to set those meetings’ agenda. Earlier this month the district began announcing its officers’ meetings as public meetings.
By Bristow Marchant, The State | Read more

Editorial: Keep SC kids in class, or obey law? Legislature shouldn’t make schools choose.

...The Charleston County School Board, by contrast, hasn’t even tried to make a case that its mask requirement is legal. And what little board members have said about their decision — they did not debate it at all in public — suggests that they simply decided to violate the law.
Worse, the board almost certainly violated another state law when it spent two hours locked behind closed doors debating the policy. Chairman Eric Mack said the board received legal and medical briefings in the executive session — even though medical briefings are not among the reasons state law allows boards to meet in private.
The Freedom of Information Act allows public bodies to receive private legal briefings related to potential lawsuits, and the briefing from board attorneys would meet that definition. But the fact is that the only legitimate question to debate was whether or not a mask requirement would violate state law — and if so, whether to adopt it anyway.
That’s a policy debate, and it should have been held in public. Frankly, the legal briefing should have been as well, so the public could better judge the decision. State law doesn’t say legal briefings have to be held in secret; it says they may be. And the medical briefing likely would have provided useful information to the public — which just might have convinced some parents to take COVID more seriously.
From The Post and Courier | Read more

City of Chester sends determination letter on N&R FOIA request

The News & Reporter has received a letter of determination from the City of Chester on a Freedom of Information Act request filed last month.
On July 6, Chester City Council voted to advertise the City’s human resources director position as open (it remains posted on the city’s employment website). However, no vote was ever taken to either accept the resignation of HR Director Barbara Haggray or to relieve her of her duties. Normally, employment actions involving department head level positions are made by the council in Chester, which operates under a council form of government. Technically, the council can vote to delegate that responsibility to the city administrator, but did not do so in open session, which are the only place votes can actually take place.
The newspaper inquired about the means by which Haggray (who was only hired last November to replace longtime HR Director Carla Roof upon her retirement) left the city’s employment but received no answer. At that point, a FOIA request was filed with the City of Chester seeking copies of two months worth of Haggray’s emails and the results of an employee survey the City recently conducted. That request was sent on July 7. On July 8, Chester City Administrator Stephanie Jackson acknowledged having received the request. However, the News & Reporter did not receive an official letter of determination within 10 business days as is required by state law.
According to the state’s FOIA law, a response to official requests for information must be made within 10 business days. The information itself does not have to be provided in that time, but the entity is supposed to give a determination on whether or not it believes the requested information qualifies as “public” or is exempt from the FOIA. So according to the law, the City should have delivered a response (which normally comes via certified mail) by July 21. On Friday, July 23, the News & Reporter sent an exploratory email to the City inquiring as to when the determination letter was going to be sent. With no response received, a story detailing the situation appeared in the next edition of The News & Reporter. Attorney Taylor Smith of the South Carolina Press Association (which advocates for open government) said if an entity fails to respond within 10 days, at that point the information requested must be provided.
By Travis Jenkins, The News & Reporter | Read more

Unnecessary force a problem at jail before Sutherland’s death, experts say

The Charleston County jail’s Special Operations Group used unnecessary force on inmates for years before Jamal Sutherland’s death in January, according to an analysis conducted for The Post and Courier. ...
The Post and Courier filed a request in June under the S.C. Freedom of Information Act for reports and, when available, videos documenting SOG’s uses of force at the jail dating back to January 2019. The newspaper specifically requested materials related to two types of force: cell extractions and Taser deployments, since both were involved in Sutherland’s death. 
The Charleston County Sheriff’s Office provided materials regarding 23 uses of force during that period. Of those cases, seven involved inmates who were exhibiting clear signs of mental illness. That included inmates who were speaking unintelligibly, nude, covered in feces, or described as “delusional.” 
By Steve Garrison, The Post and Courier | Read more

Newberry School District working on mask mandate; New meeting set for Monday

During the Monday, Aug. 23, Newberry County School District Board of Trustees meeting, the board voted 6-1 to approve a 30-day mask mandate for the district. Board Member Ike Bledsoe voted against.
However, on Tuesday, the Newberry County School District released the following statement: “As you previously were informed, at its meeting last evening, the Newberry County School District Board of Trustees voted to enforce a mask mandate for all students and staff, effective immediately. Because this matter was not on the agenda for discussion and action, the board has called a special meeting for Monday, August 30 beginning at 7:00 p.m., where this matter will be reconsidered following the opportunity for public forum. If you wish to participate in the public forum, you must complete the Public Participation Request (located on our district website) prior to 3:00 p.m. on Monday.”
By Andew Wigger, The Newberry Observer | Read more

‘Frustrated’ Clinton leaders violate FOIA laws with meeting

Clinton officials were looking for an opportunity to vent their frustrations to local members of the Laurens County Development Board about the recently announced move of the LCDC to downtown office space in Laurens.
In doing so officials held an unannounced meeting of the Clinton Economic Development’s Executive Committee which violated the state’s Freedom of Information Act laws or so-called “Sunshine Laws” for governing bodies.
Typically, the CEDC Executive Committee releases agendas to the media at least 24 hours before meetings, as stipulated by the FOIA.
Clinton Mayor Bob McLean had asked LCDC board member David O’Shields if some from the community who were concerned about the recently announced move could come and talk about their concerns, and O’Shields told LCDC President and CEO Jonathan Coleman that some citizens were coming to “vent some frustrations” about the change and they would be meeting Wednesday afternoon.
O’Shields also said that he’d asked fellow LCDC board member Jimmy Capps, head of the Clinton-Newberry Natural Gas Authority to come as well,  but said he had no idea the group coming to meet at an office within the M.S. Bailey building included a quorum.
By Judith Brown, The Laurens County Advertiser | Read more
Related: A "Mistake" - That Has Support (By Vic MacDonald, The Clinton Chronicle)

Blythewood Town Hall mum on attorney contract, fees

... After the meeting, The Voice asked Town Administrator Carroll Williamson for a copy of the letter of engagement or contract between the [Town of Blythewood] and [outside counsel David Black, an attorney with Nexsen Pruet LLC out of Columbia] Williamson directed The Voice to contact Black directly for that information and gave his assurance that Black would comply.
On July 27, 2021, The Voice submitted a Freedom of Information request for copies of the contract/letter of engagement as well as documentation pertaining to the retainer fee the Town paid for Black’s legal services and any additional charges he had invoiced to the town.
On Aug. 3, 2021, Black responded to The Voice.
“The Town has advised that it is in possession of responsive records as you describe in your request; however, such records are exempt from disclosure pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. 30-4-40(a)(3) and (7),” Black wrote
That explanation does not satisfy the S.C. Press Association’s media attorney Taylor Smith.
“Only those records that are marked confidential or otherwise prohibited from disclosure under the law may be held back under South Carolina’s open records laws,” Smith said. “To the extent the town’s fee agreement with this law firm has attorney-client privileged material within the document, SCFOIA allows the town to redact/blackout that information. It is illegal for the town to withhold the attorney fee agreement entirely as that does not allow the residents of Blythewood to understand any better how their taxpayer funds are being spent.”
The Voice has again sent a Freedom of Information request for the same documents to Town Administrator Carroll Williamson.
According to the S.C. Freedom of Information Act, fully executed contracts are public information, are not allowed to be discussed in executive session and are subject to the FOIA.
By Barbara Ball, The Voice of Blythewood | Read more

Judge allows Pawleys Island FOIA suit to go to trial

Conflicting versions of events surrounding Pawleys Island Town Council meetings create sufficient dispute to allow a lawsuit claiming the town violated the state open meetings law to go to trial, a judge ruled earlier this month.
Henry Thomas, an island resident, filed suit in 2019 saying the council held improper executive sessions at three meetings and failed to give notice or keep minutes of an ad hoc finance committee’s meetings. His attorney, Taylor Smith, asked Circuit Court Judge Ben Culbertson to grant a motion for summary judgment at a hearing in June. Smith said the town’s meeting minutes provided proof of the violations of the state Freedom of Information Act.
By Charles Swenson, Coastal Observer | Read more

People & Papers

Giroux
Gifford

Giroux promoted to editor of The Daniel Island News; Gifford retires

Transition is everywhere. And this is no truer than at The Daniel Island News.
Boots Gifford transitioned into the editor’s role just prior to the COVID lockdown in March of 2020 and effectively led the newsroom through the pandemic. Part of that leadership involved hiring Zach Giroux as a general assignment reporter and copy editor. 
And now that transition continues. Congratulations to Boots as she retires after more than 20 years in journalism. Congratulations to Zach as he takes the reins as editor.
Zach brings enthusiasm, energy, solid reporting, and high standards to the paper. He is well-known in the area. Previous to joining The Daniel Island News, he worked several years as a writer and copy editor at the Moultrie News, and as a freelance editor and writer at The Island Eye News and The Island Connection. He also has experience as a sports writer and editor.
For the past year, Zach covered news and features for The Daniel Island News and, more recently, began taking on additional editorial duties.
“The responsibility is a pleasure not a pressure and the highest honor thus far in my journalism career,” Zach said. “My duty is to provide the utmost unbiased, factual and transparent news information to our readers.”
Zach, who hails from a small northeastern town in Vermont, earned a degree in English from the University of Vermont and previously studied political science at Clemson University and Coastal Carolina University. 
Over the last several months, Boots worked to transition the editor’s role to Zach. She will continue to work part-time as a copy editor for the paper, but plans to travel, explore, and spend more time with family.
By Suzanne Detar, The Daniel Island News | Read more

Landrum News Leader ceases publication

SCPA has received word that The News Leader in Landrum has stopped publishing. 
Since late 2019, the weekly newspaper has been run by Tricia Taber, who served as owner, editor and publisher. The paper was published on Wednesdays and stated an average circulation of 1,725.
The Landrum Leader was founded in 1955 by James Walton and Dorris Lawrence. In 1976, their son, John F. Lawrence, was named editor, and the name was changed to The News Leader. Upon his father's retirement in the late '80s, he was also named editor.
The newspaper was eventually sold to Bob Tribble of Trib Publications in Georgia.  
In late 2019, Tricia Taber, who served as the paper's managing editor, purchased The News Leader from Trib Publications.
Cash

Savannah Morning News Executive Editor Rana Cash hired to lead Charlotte Observer

Rana L. Cash, executive editor of the Savannah Morning News and Georgia director for the USA Today Network (who also serves as Executive Editor for South Carolina's Lowcountry newspapers including Bluffton Today and Jasper County Sun Times), announced on Wednesday that she would be stepping down from her position to take the same one at the Charlotte Observer.
Cash joined the Morning News in June 2020 after serving as the sports editor at the Louisville Courier-Journal. Before coming to Savannah, she previously worked in Georgia as a sportswriter and editor for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from 2003 to 2010. She is a Florida native and a 1992 graduate of Florida A&M University.
She is the first African American to lead the Savannah newsroom in the publication's 170-year history. ... Cash's last day at the Morning News will be Sept. 17. 
By Zach Dennis, Savannah Morning News | Read more

Related: Rana Cash, Observer’s new top editor, pledges accountability, tough questions, solutions (By Michael Gordon, The Charlotte Observer)

Chhetri
Diaz
Merryman
Hamilton

Here are four new Greenville News reporters you should be reading this fall

...Devyani Chhetri has joined [Greenville News] as our new state government reporter, and you’ve already seen her byline as she’s begun writing about politics and government in Greenville. Devyani is spending the summer and fall in the Upstate and then will move to Columbia so she can be closer to the seat of government as she reports on what’s happening in the capital from a uniquely Upstate perspective. She’ll be the lead state government reporter for The News as well as our sister publications in Spartanburg and Anderson.
Cory Diaz has also joined The News as part of our team in Columbia. Cory will be our new full-time University of South Carolina athletics reporter. He comes to us from a Gannett newsroom in Monroe, Louisiana, where he was covering Louisiana Tech and Grambling State athletics. Now he’ll be digging into USC and the SEC for our three newsrooms in the Upstate and the entire USA Today Network.
Both Devyani’s and Cory’s positions are roles we’ve had in the past and now restored because we know they are valuable to our readers.
Also joining our team this fall are a pair of reporters that will be focusing on education.
Krys Merryman is our new education and family issues reporter. Krys will be reporting on the Greenville County school district, but also much more. In her role as family issues reporter, you can expect to see Krys focusing more on issues like foster care, food insecurity and other topics of importance to parents, children and families. Krys comes to Greenville from a Gannett newsroom in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Alexis Hamilton started in August as our new Clemson University reporter. Alexis is a South Carolina native, a graduate of Florida A&M University and most recently was an intern at the Nashville Tennessean, a Gannett news outlet. We’re excited to have her dig into important topics at and around Clemson University.
These four reporters are in key positions that we know are of high interest to our readers. They’ll also be writing a significant amount of content that you’ll find on our website labeled “for subscribers.”
This begs the question that I hear a lot: Why are you reserving some of your digital content for subscribers only and not letting people read it for free?
The simple answer is that it costs money for us to produce high-quality journalism. Adding two new positions to cover state government and USC athletics, bringing in talented journalists to fill open positions and delivering the news you expect all come at a cost.
By Steve Bruss, Greenville News | Read more

Industry Briefs

The Sumter Item team learns, applies value of audience data

This article on The Sumter Item is one in a series of case studies from LMA on selected Accelerator participants, to share ideas and insights with the industry. 
Key takeaways for publishers:
  • Focus on the middle of the audience funnel when developing reader engagement tactics.
  • Tell your own story as a news organization
  • Move your newsroom beyond a pageview-centric approach to measuring success so you can understand what journalism subscribers value most
By Penny Riordan, Local Media Association | Read the full case study

SCPA members invited to participate in News Leaders Association 2021 Diversity Survey

The News Leaders Association’s Transformative Transparency Project survey is now open. The comprehensive update to the former ASNE Diversity Survey is being distributed on a rolling basis. NLA plans to have 500 media outlets participate by the end of August, and an additional 2,000 by the end of 2021.
The association acknowledges this is an ambitious goal that cannot be accomplished without the support and participation of the entire industry. However, NLA believes it’s critical to provide a tool that allows accurate assessment of where the news industry is today. The organization wants to help facilitate changes that move the needle on diversifying news media at all levels.
To participate, journalists and organizations can email: diversity@newsleaders.org for their organization’s link. NLA is also offering “office hours” to support outlets as they report their numbers.
Katrice Hardy, chair of the NLA Diversity Committee, said, “NLA’s new approach is dynamic and responsive to the industry’s needs. In addition to the survey, NLA’s Transformative Transparency Project will include the creation of tools to assist newsrooms in improving the DEI culture in their newsrooms.”

Report for America opens newsroom applications, expands opportunity to hire more journalists

Report for America is accepting applications through Sept. 30, for news organizations interested in partnering to host emerging and experienced journalists in their newsrooms for up to three years, beginning next summer. 
Report for America is a national service program that places talented journalists—corps members—into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities. Through the program, host newsrooms receive:
  • Service-minded reporters, photographers and videographers
  • Diverse, hand-picked candidates from a pool of emerging and experienced journalists
  • Subsidized salary support, up to half for the first year
  • Local fundraising coaching and resources 
  • Extra training and mentoring for journalists
“Report for America provides a unique opportunity for newsrooms to bring journalists on staff at a time when the need for local, trusted news is more important than ever,” said Norman Parish, director of recruitment for Report for America. “Through our support, news organizations are better positioned to cover important issues, diversify their newsrooms, and grow sustainable, local support within their communities.”
The application deadline is September 30, and newsrooms will be publicly announced in December. Apply and find out more here.

AP releases back-to-school topical guide

The Associated Press has compiled a style guide of essential words, phrases and definitions related to the return to classes. Terms are from the AP Stylebook, usage in AP stories and Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fifth Edition.

3 tips for covering redistricting

Editor's Note: SCPA has reached out to the U.S. Census Bureau about offering a virtual training session in Sept. on making sense of the Census data. More details coming soon.
... Researcher James G. Gimpel encourages journalists to monitor local redistricting discussions and any legal disputes that arise over the coming months. He offers these three tips to help bolster news coverage:
1. Don’t assume a lack of lawsuits means voting district maps in your area are well drawn. Ask whether voters have raised concerns and why they have not pursued legal action.
“Why is litigation only in some states and in some other states, we hardly ever see it?” Gimpel asks. “It’s not because some places have better maps. These problems with the maps are pretty common — you can find something wrong with any map that you look at.”
By Denise-Marie Ordway, The Journalist's Resource, Harvard Kennedy School's Shorenstein Center | Read more

Arkansas newspaper removes comments from news articles

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette recently made the decision to remove comments from most of ArkansasOnline.com. Commenting will still be available on opinion pieces.
Why did we do this? Our comment section, like many comment sections, had become a place where a small number of people spent a large amount of time leaving negative messages. Many of these comments were intolerant, homophobic, transphobic, racist and misogynistic. Instead of engaging in respectful debate, commenters attempted to shut down conversation with personal insults. We believe that these types of comments distract from our award-winning journalism and do not add value to readers’ website experience. Also, moderating comments by our staff takes time and manpower that could be devoted to other projects that will better serve our readers.
From Arkansas Democrat-Gazette | Read more

Columns

By Trudi Gilfillian,
Opinion Editor,
The State

A coworker now identifies as nonbinary. Here’s how you can make a workplace inclusive in SC

A line on the Columbia-based Harriet Hancock Center Foundation website begins “It can be isolating to be LGBTQ+ in South Carolina …”
Those of us who are not lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning/queer, cannot fully understand what that means, but we can empathize.
Now, empathy seems to be in short supply these days, but imagine a moment in time when you felt isolated.
Perhaps you were an awkward seventh-grader struggling to fit in or a new hire at a company with a culture you didn’t quite understand.
Maybe you are the only person in your friend group (like me) who fully appreciates the brilliance of the original Star Trek.
Whatever your circumstances, you may have felt isolated for a minute or a day or a year.
Now consider feeling isolated every single day of your life simply because of who you are.
That’s the experience of members of the LGBTQ+ community in our state, and that’s why the actions of one of my co-workers this week renewed my belief in the good of others.
In an email to the whole staff and via a Tweet and Instagram post, Joshua Boucher announced that “I am writing you all to tell you that I am nonbinary and will be using they/them pronouns going forward. I am asking you all to do the same when referring to me in print and to others.”
The note continued, “Getting to know you all over this last year and seeing the care and understanding you all have shown with nonbinary sources has made the decision to come out easy for me.”
What a credit to our staff.
Remember the old adage actions speak louder than words?
Your actions and those of your co-workers can speak volumes to those who know who they are and who want to be able to share that with the world.
“I feel comfortable coming out to you all because I know The State is a place where I can be my authentic self, receive support and respect,” they wrote.
In true journalist style, they also added a link to the Associated Press Stylebook to make sure we knew what all this meant and the proper terms to use going forward. Read more

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