Your connection to industry & member news
Your connection to industry & member news
Your connection to industry & member news  |  March 18, 2021
By SCPA Executive Director Bill Rogers

It's the public's right to know

It is Sunshine Week across America. South Carolina’s Freedom of Information Act – the Sunshine Law – gives you access to government meetings and public records.
Let me share with you the preface to the S.C. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA):
“The General Assembly finds that it is vital in a democratic society that public business be performed in an open and public manner so that citizens shall be advised of the performance of public officials and of the decisions that are reached in public activity and in formulation of public policy.”
This sentence sums up the intent of South Carolina’s Sunshine Law – that it is crucial to be aware of the important decisions public bodies make in your community. But the law and its intent mean nothing if the citizens of our state don’t take it to heart.
They do this by attending public meetings to hear what is being discussed.
They do this by demanding public documents they have the right to see. Read more
By Eric P. Robinson, USC School of Journalism and Mass Communications

'The Right to Be Forgotten' washes ashore in the U.S.

We all make mistakes, take foolish actions, and say stupid things. Most of the time, these errors in judgment are ephemeral: we deal with the consequences—or not—and we move on, hopefully a bit more prudent and wiser.
But in the age of the internet, past indiscretions that once would be forgotten now never really go away. But while we may have little sympathy for public officials and public figures whose failings are revealed after they knowingly subject themselves to public scrutiny, in the modern era these online archives contain information on all of us that we may wish to stay in the past.
In 2014, the European Court of Justice gave citizens of European Union countries a partial remedy for this dilemma. Based of the E.U.’s protections of personal privacy—way beyond any such protection in the United States—the court held that individuals could request that search web sites remove “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” information about them from their search results. This so-called “right to be forgotten” does not remove the underlying information from the web; it only allows for removal of the search result listing, and only upon request of the individual involved. And the search sites are the ones who determine whether the information meets the criteria for delisting.
The delisting only applies on site targeted at E.U. countries. Thus results need only be removed from google.fr, Google’s website for France, but not its American-targeted site, google.com. An effort by France to get the delistings to apply worldwide was rejected by the E.U. court. Read more

Last call to register for virtual redistricting training

SCPA is partnering with the League of Women Voters of South Carolina to host a virtual training session on redistricting next Friday, March 26 from 11 a.m. until 12:15 p.m. 
We'll cover legal issues around redistricting including law and court cases, the redistricting process and criteria, the Census, how SC got where we are now, a timeline and what we can expect when the census data appears in late September. We’ll also offer story ideas, resources and contacts for journalists. 
The event is free but you must RSVP by March 23
Member Spotlight: Billy Cannada
What do you like best about your job?
I love Greer. I love that I get to live and work in this community. I also enjoy the people that I work with. Small town newspapers give you great access to the community, but they also create a family work environment. We have some talented people here that produce a great product. Just don’t tell them I said that.

What is your proudest career moment?
I once interviewed rapper DMX at his home in Lyman. The interview was about DMX wanting to fight George Zimmerman for charity. We also talked about how he’d become an ordained minister in Arizona. I have not since achieved such journalistic heights.

What's the most exciting thing going on at your paper?
One of our reporters, Kaelyn Cashman, has gotten involved at a local high school and has invited several interns to come be involved and gain experience. This is exciting for us because The Greer Citizen has always valued internships and training young journalists. In fact, both Kaelyn and I were interns at The Greer Citizen before we came to work here full time.

What’s your favorite SCPA member service?
The annual banquet is always fun. It’s a source of inspiration seeing such great work from across the state. 

What adjustments have you made during COVID-19?
Because of the layout we have at our office, we've been able to remain open to the public throughout the pandemic. Most interviews have been done over the phone/zoom, however, and we seem to be attending a lot of meetings virtually.
 
When it’s safe to get out and about again, what are some area attractions/restaurants in your community we shouldn’t miss?
There’s a Strip Club downtown that is very good. It’s a steakhouse, so get your mind out of the gutter (The Strip Club 104 if you’re interested). They offer one of the best atmospheres for downtown dining. Barista Alley is a great coffee shop and there are several new boutiques on Trade Street that are worth checking out.

What is something most people don’t know about you?
I only listen to two different types of music: Christmas and 90s alternative rock. Because of how early I start listening to Christmas music, the two are evenly divided throughout the year. If we could get Matchbox Twenty to make a Christmas album, I’d be set.

What do you like to do outside of work?
I’m currently raising three children under the age of four, so I don’t have hobbies. I do enjoy Paw Patrol and Curious George. I’m also getting good at Play-Doh sculptures and cleaning up goldfish that have been stepped on. 

Know someone that you’d like SCPA to spotlight? Email us your recommendations.

FOI Briefs

After The State’s report, USC announces new steps to address sex harassment cases

University of South Carolina President Bob Caslen announced several new steps the school will take in addressing cases of sexual assault and harassment on campus.
Caslen made the announcement in a Sunday morning email to students, faculty and staff. The message came two days after The State published a story by Lucas Daprile Friday reporting that 10 women have alleged since 2017 that the school failed to effectively respond to claims of sexual harassment. The paper examined those allegations through court records, interviews and internal USC documents.
By Chris Trainor, The State | Read more

Charleston County Council spends majority of time in back room at some public meetings

When Charleston County Council holds a public meeting, it’s common for much of the meeting to be held in private, after council members declare a so-called “executive session” and recede from public view, into the back room.
The Post and Courier reviewed all of the council’s regular and committee meetings available online, covering a six-month period from October through early March, and found the council spent 17 hours behind closed doors over the course of 16 meeting nights.
By David Slade, The Post and Courier | Read more

Our View: Sunshine benefits you

Despite the weather experienced so far and forecast for Thursday, it is Sunshine Week, a time in which media all across America draw attention to the public’s right to know. That’s correct, the public’s right to know.
It is the public that elects school boards. The public elects town, city and county councils; it elects government at all levels. And it is the public that pays the salaries of city and county managers, law enforcement, teachers, principals, tax assessors, treasurers, clerks of court and so on.
While most people generally understand their role in electing people into office and that taxpayer-funded employees work for them, not everyone realizes that in this relationship the public has more of an upper hand than it thinks. Sure, the public can replace officeholders on Election Day, but the public also has the power to hold accountable those who work for them.
How? Through the state’s Freedom of Information Act.
Although hardly perfect, the act, which was strengthened by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Henry McMaster in 2017, gives the public a flashlight to shine on areas where public bodies try to maintain darkness.
From the Index-Journal | Read more

Hard to find now, SC senators want to show you how the Legislature spends your money

Some lawmakers want to make it easier for the public to follow the flow of state taxpayer dollars to the programs and special projects they fund.
The effort, called the Taxpayer Transparency Act, comes after exclusive reporting during the last year and a half from The State and Island Packet that revealed money being sent to legislators’ pet projects, often without any debate and buried within agency budgets.
By Joseph Bustos, The State | Read more

SC lawmakers continue to push for transparency on state business grants and tax incentives

... Showa Denko Carbon, a manufacturer of electrodes used in the steel-making process, decided in 2011 it would expand its factory just outside of Ridgeville and increase its production capacity by 68 percent. ...
The S.C. Department of Commerce, by that point, agreed to give Showa Denko a $2 million grant in return for the company investing at least $200 million into its factory and adding another 100 workers to its payroll. ...
But more than 10 years later, it has now been revealed that the company didn’t follow through on all of the promises it made to South Carolina.
Newly released records show commerce officials allowed Showa Denko, and several dozen other businesses, to keep state grant funding even after they failed to meet all of the agreed-upon job and investment requirements.
The Commerce Department released the information on those deals last month in an effort to appease state lawmakers who have complained about a lack of transparency at the agency, which is responsible for recruiting new businesses to South Carolina.
But if state commerce officials expected the information to satisfy their critics, it didn’t work.
Instead, it reignited efforts by a pair of legislators to increase oversight of the agency and to shine more light onto the millions of dollars in grants and tax incentives state officials provide to companies every year.
By Andrew Brown, The Post and Courier | Read more

Editorial: Government has opportunity to build interest

So much has changed in the world over a year amid the coronavirus pandemic. It’s hard to name anyone or anything that in some way has not been impacted.
Government has felt the effects in the way it does business. Offices were closed for extended periods of time but are mostly now back in semi-regular operation. But many governmental bodies such as councils and boards are continuing to meet virtually using programs such as Zoom.
T&D Staff Writer Gene Zaleski says the virtual meetings have had the most effect on the way his job as a journalist has changed.
“The biggest challenge of virtual meetings has been getting public input on various government/board proceedings as the public comment portion of board meetings has been curtailed and in some cases eliminated due to the virtual setting. Some boards have set up separate electronic avenues for the public to communicate.
“I believe in many ways things have changed for the good as public bodies have exercised innovation and creativity to ensure transparency is maintained. Virtual and electronic media have opened meetings to a wider audience.
“Ironically, the virtual platform has enabled meetings to become more accessible as individuals can attend the meetings via Zoom, Facebook Live, Microsoft Teams etc. than they would otherwise from an in-person setting.”
From The Times and Democrat | Read more

P&C creates citizens toolbox for obtaining public records

The S.C. Freedom of Information Act guarantees citizens access to public records and meetings of government bodies in South Carolina. The aim is to promote transparency in government and allow the public to learn more about the performance of public officials and how taxpayer dollars and other public funds are spent.
But that doesn’t mean that officials are always eager to share those records with you.
So, The Post and Courier has prepared a citizens’ toolbox for using the state’s sunshine law to get the records and information you need. These tips are drawn from our reporters’ extensive experience using the FOIA, as well as helpful guides published by the South Carolina Press Association.
By Glenn Smith, The Post and Courier | Read more

Richland County acknowledges illegal vote, reapproves $1 million to fired administrator

Richland County acknowledged it erred in a vote to pay fired administrator Gerald Seals almost $1 million, with County Council formally reapproving the same deal almost three years later.
The decision comes after a judge ruled in October that the County Council violated state open-meetings law on Seals’ settlement in a vote during a private session in May 2018. Columbia attorney Joe McCulloch sued the county on behalf of a local businessman after the initial vote, saying the process had violated the state’s Freedom of Information Act. ...
Council deliberations about what to do after Newman’s ruling have lingered for five months, taking a turn after fall elections changed the makeup of the elected body over the state’s second-largest county.
After two hours in a closed-door session March 16, Richland County Council emerged and voted to formally approve the deal under the original terms in order to comply with state law and the judge’s order. The vote was to settle “any and all claims” between the county and Seals as stipulated in original terms.
“Additionally, the county regrets FOIA errors that occurred in the original vote on the settlement agreement and wishes Mr. Seals well in his future endeavors,” the motion read by councilman Overture Walker said.
By Stephen Fastenau, The Post and Courier | Read more

People & Papers

Reporter Gregory A. Summers writes a coronavirus update on a battery-powered laptop by the light of a single lantern Tuesday after a power outage plunged the newsroom into darkness. Photo by Athena Redmond, The Lancaster News

Lancaster's newsroom goes pitch black, and it’s 2 hours before deadline

We worked in the dark at The Lancaster News office on North White Street for more than two hours Tuesday evening so you wouldn’t be left in the dark about what’s happening in your town.
That’s what you do at a newspaper.
The above photo is not fake news or a hokey illustration. This is what it looks like inside a building with no windows just after 5 p.m. when someone clipped a power pole on nearby Woodland Drive.
When the lights went out, we kept our focus and kept working.
That was no small accomplishment given our dependence on computers, networks, e-mails, electronics and servers. I have no idea how any of that stuff works, but I gained a greater appreciation for them.
We remained calm and plodded along to figure out a way to get you the Wednesday edition.
For me, it meant going to the county to get a copy of a COVID-19 press release and using the laptop of TLN Editor Brian Melton to crank out our lead story.
My eye kept darting to the battery indicator on the laptop as it dwindled.
I typed, added numbers by hand, checked newspaper clippings from past issues, and accessed the internet from a cell phone under the glow of a small battery-powered lantern.
Illuminating, isn’t it? It was kind of fun, but I don’t want to do it again.
After about 90 minutes of darkness, the flashing emergency exit lights in the main hall started losing battery power and faded to night-light intensity. Somehow they kept making their loud, annoying clicking sound with each tired flash.
By Gregory A. Summers, The Lancaster News | Read more

Daniels celebrates 50 years at The Dillon Herald

Congratulations to Johnnie Daniels on celebrating his 50th anniversary of working at The Dillon Herald. Daniels, who serves as general manager and advertising director, said he isn't retiring and looks forward to continuing to serve his customers and friends.
This 2008-32 Unit Goss Magnum press is in the process of being dismantled and will be installed at tThe Post and Courier. The equipment is housed in Sweden and is expected to arrive in the U.S. this month. Photo from Impressions Worldwide.

Post and Courier replaces current press lines with Goss Magnum Eight Tower Press

The Post and Courier has announced the purchase of a 2008 Goss Magnum Single Width Press, originally housed in Skelleftca, Sweden. According to a press release, the press is currently being dismantled, crated and transported via container ship to the U.S. with an expected arrival time of March 2021. ...
I recently interviewed P.J. Browning, Post and Courier publisher, to gain more insight about their upcoming press purchase and installation. Her answers are below.
Many newspapers across the country are consolidating operations or outsourcing printing.  In addition, majority of newspapers in the country are focusing on digital. Why would you decide to put in a new press at this time?
Browning: We currently have two presses located in our downtown Charleston facility. Our owners have 12 acres around the Post and Courier and developed phase one of Courier Square a couple of years ago. The plan is to continue new development on the property where the newspaper facility sits. So, we find it necessary to move into a new printing facility. We believe we’ll still be printing newspapers for years to come in some form or fashion.
Did you consider outsourcing instead of investing in a new press?
Browning: We looked at outsourcing, but our family of newspapers in South Carolina consists of multiple weeklies that are printed at the Post and Courier facility. If we were simply moving one newspaper, it might have been an option, but considering all of the printing we do, it wasn’t financially viable to outsource.
By Jerry Simpkins, Editor and Publisher | Read more
As part of the city of Spartanburg's #21DaysofKindness, the Herald-Journal collected and donated two grocery carts full of canned goods, boxed foods and toiletries to the food pantry at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church.  Photo by Alex Hicks Jr., Herald-Journal. Read more

Industry Briefs

Journalists: You can earn your community’s trust, and this free course can help you do it

Through a new course from Poynter and our team at Trusting News, you will learn how to be transparent about your goals, mission and ethics, while understanding why it’s important to engage with your community by asking for feedback and hosting conversations.
It’s a self-paced course, which means you can learn on your own time. You also can pick and choose the sections you complete and decide what you want to focus on first. In the course, you will learn:
  • What people think about the news, and how your news organizations fits into the landscape of “the media”
  • How to talk about your goals and mission as a news organization (and also why this is so important to earning trust)
  • Why it’s important to moderate conversation spaces (including social media) and how you can effectively make time for it and gain insights from what you are hearing
  • How to talk about your ethics and news decisions and be transparent about those decisions in your daily reporting and specific beats
  • Why labeling and describing opinion content is so important and how you can effectively do it
  • How to talk about your funding and how the business side of journalism impacts (or in most cases, doesn’t impact) news decisions
  • Why it’s important to help people navigate the news and easy ways you can insert media literacy into your journalism
Throughout the course, there will be exercises to help you bring what you are learning into your newsroom and journalism. Learn more and register for free.

News Media Alliance testifies at House antitrust hearing on saving local journalism

The News Media Alliance testified last week at a House Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law Subcommittee hearing, “Reviving Competition, Part 2: Saving the Free and Diverse Press,” on the need for the dominant tech platforms, such as Facebook and Google, to compensate news publishers fairly for use of their content. Read more

Online harassment of female journalists is real, and it’s increasingly hard to endure

Julia Carrie Wong remembers a time, years ago, when she felt that being a part of digital culture was fun.
“I used to really enjoy online spaces, having a personality and a voice,” recalled the 37-year-old technology reporter for the Guardian.
That changed radically several years ago after she wrote on Twitter in support of a journalist who had been targeted by a white-nationalist site.
The trolling began. Wong had once described herself, in a first-person story, as half-Chinese American and half-Jewish, so her online attackers blasted vicious slurs against both parts of her heritage. They circulated photos doctored to show horns on her head. They talked about where she lived.
It has only gotten worse since then. In 2019, Wong wrote a story about the man accused of killing 23 people at an El Paso Walmart after allegedly penning a missive posted to 8chan, an anonymous discussion board. Swarms of toxic online denizens of that site and others came after her, bombarding her with death and rape threats.
By Margaret Sullivan, Washington Post | Read more

Columns

By Jim Pumarlo, Newspaper Consultant

Newspapers excel as your collective ‘eyes and ears’

My days of sitting behind an editor’s desk have passed, but I’ll never lose my newspaper blood. I regularly enjoy my first cup of coffee while scanning newspaper websites. It’s a great way to keep current on what’s happening in communities.
Public affairs have always been a passion, so I pay particular attention when the broad arena of issues is addressed. The role of newspapers as watchdogs of the dynamics in both the public and private sectors bears underscoring during Sunshine Week, March 14-20, and its theme, “Your Right to Know.”
Some recent headlines:
  • From the Chanhassen Villager: “Build, invest or tear down are all options for some District 112 elementary schools.”
  • From the Rochester Post-Bulletin: “Court records show troubling past of Wabasha County administrator applicant.”
  • From the International Falls Journal: “Campus officials talk gap years, hopes for fall enrollment.”  Read more
By Gene Policinski,
Freedom Forum

You can’t have democracy without a free press

There’s a reason we need a free press, despite its faults and foibles: Democracy won’t work without it.
The grand experiment in self-governance that is the United States is rooted in trust and confidence we all will work toward the greater good. But the nation’s founders had experience with a king and his expected benevolence — and what could happen when things didn’t work out.
So, they provided for three branches of government to balance each other, along with periodic elections and the rights for us to assemble and seek change when we think things have gone astray.
All fine, but also relatively long-term solutions. How do we know what our government is doing, how well it is operating or whether our elected officials are up to the job?
Enter the only profession mentioned in the Constitution: A free press, to serve as a “watchdog on government.” A free press the government cannot control, to offer an independent, regular update on behalf of the rest of us. Read more

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