Your connection to industry & member news
Your connection to industry & member news
Your connection to industry & member news  |  Jan. 5, 2023

Waccamaw Publishers founder remembered for commitment to local news, family and community

Editor's Note: We are sad to share the news that Waccamaw Publishers founder Steve Robertson passed away Saturday at the age of 70. He served as president of SCPA in 1998.
Steve Robertson relished telling the story of his company.
It began in 1980 with a local journalist abandoning the comfort of the community’s established newspapers to launch an outlet exclusively focused on Conway. Many folks in the industry doubted Robertson. He even cautioned new hires that his goal for the fledgling paper was simply to survive for three months.
“He said, ‘Well, I better warn you about this now,’” recalled Kathy Ropp, who left the Field and Herald newspaper to join Robertson’s Horry Independent in 1980. “He said, ‘We decided that we’re only going to try this for three months because we think after three months we’ll have some idea about whether this is going to go or not.’ … I walked out the door and I stood there a minute and I actually went, ‘OK, you better start checking on what the job market is around here because in three months you’re going to be out of work, girl.’ … I didn’t think we had a dog’s chance.”
Yet Robertson’s paper passed the three-month mark, then a year, then decade after decade. The Independent outlasted some of its competitors, and its parent company, Waccamaw Publishers, will turn 43 in March. But the media outlet’s strongest advocate won’t be there to celebrate the milestone.
Robertson, the soft-spoken journalist and entrepreneur who shepherded Waccamaw Publishers for more than four decades, died Saturday at his Conway home after suffering a heart attack. He was 70 years old.
By Hannah Strong Oskin and Charles D. Perry, My Horry News | Read more

Last chance to register for SCPA's legislative workshop

TODAY is the last day to register for the Legislative Preview for the Media!
Join key Senate and House leaders Monday, Jan. 9, as they discuss goals for the 2023 session. Confirmed panelists include Sens. Thomas Alexander, Senate President and Chairman, Interstate Cooperation; Chip Campsen, Chairman, Fish, Game & Forestry; Tom Davis, Chairman, Labor, Commerce & Industry; Ronnie Cromer, Chairman, Banking & Insurance; Harvey Peeler, Chairman, Finance; Luke Rankin, Chairman, Judiciary; Katrina Shealy, Chair, Family and Veterans’ Services; Shane Massey, Majority Leader; and Brad Hutto, Minority Leader; Reps. Bruce Bannister, Chairman, Ways & Means; Bill Hixon, Chairman, Agriculture, Natural Resources & Environmental Affairs; Jay Jordan, Chairman, Ethics; Tommy Pope, Speaker Pro Tempore; Todd Rutherford, Minority Leader; and Bill Sandifer, Chairman, Labor, Commerce & Industry. Frank Rainwater, Lisa Jolliff and Amanda Martin of the S.C. Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office will provide an overview of numbers on revenue and spending projections. 
Here is a full schedule with more details. All discussions are on the record.  
This event is co-sponsored by SCPA, the S.C. Broadcasters Association, The Associated Press and South Carolina Educational Television.
This day-long workshop is recommended for editors, reporters, news directors, editorial writers, publishers and managers.
The cost to attend is $60 and lunch will be provided.
The Smoak Fund has a limited amount of scholarships for this event. If you are interested in attending, but need financial assistance, please email us.  

News Contest entries off to judging; SCPA members needed to judge Collegiate Contest

SCPA contest entries are headed off to judging next week! SCPA received more than 3,000 contest entries from SCPA’s newspaper, associate and individual, and collegiate members.
Eighty three organizations participated in the 2022 News Contest, a slight increase from last year's contest.
Winners will be announced for proofing on Feb. 1.
Awards will be presented at SCPA’s Annual Meeting & Awards on March 9-10, 2023, at the Cooperative Conference Center in Columbia. In addition to the awards luncheon, this event will feature training and social functions, the spring Executive Committee Meeting and a retreat for family-owned newspapers. A full schedule and registration will be announced later this month. If you’d like to sponsor, here are more details!
We also need 12 members to help judge our Collegiate Contest online later this month. Categories include news, features, opinion and sports writing, photography, design and digital. Judges will receive instructions and entries in mid-January and will have two weeks to complete the judging. Let us know if you can help.

New year... new press ID

It's time to order your staff's 2023 press IDs!
High-quality plastic photo ID cards are available for SCPA newspaper members at $6 each.
SCPA has a Priority Mail shipping fee of $8 for all orders that need a clip or lanyard. If you do not need a clip for your press ID (can re-use an old clip or lanyard or you put in your wallet), let us know and we can ship your order at a much lower rate, typically around $1.
Please note SCPA is only able to track orders shipped in Priority Mail boxes. If you need your order quickly, we recommend paying the Priority Mail shipping cost. 
Orders must come from member newspaper editors. Newspaper staffers, part-time employees and freelancers must contact their editor to order a press ID and/or decal.

Senior Management Roundtable to be held Jan. 20

SCPA’s Senior Management Roundtable will be held Friday, Jan. 20, from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m., at SCPA Offices in Columbia.
This event (formerly known as our Publishers Roundtable) is a great opportunity for senior daily, weekly and monthly managers (including publishers, general managers, ad directors and other key leaders) to come together to discuss the issues facing your organizations in a casual setting.
Topics are up to the group, but may include: new ad ideas that are working, non-traditional ways to build revenue, growing readership and audience engagement, ways to save money, managing staff and more. We’ll also have plenty of time for show and tell.
The cost to attend is $25, which includes lunch. If you can't make it, please consider sending a member of your leadership team. 
Thanks to the SCPA Foundation Smoak Fund for sponsoring this event!
Please note editor roundtables to discuss newsroom topics will be held later in the year. 
Register to attend

SC News Exchange adds 'Mystery Plant!' columnist

John Nelson, retired professor of botany and curator of the Herbarium at the University of South Carolina, in the Department of Biological Sciences, and author of a weekly column entitled “Mystery Plant!” has started contributing to the S.C. News Exchange.
His goal with "Mystery Plant!" is to generate interest in plants, whether local or exotic, as a way of getting readers interested in plants around them, as well as botany in general. 
Read John's first column on the S.C. News Exchange.

"No returns" 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

Behind closed doors: School trustees spend a lot of time in ‘executive’ sessions

The Cherokee County School Board spent more than 16 hours meeting behind closed doors in 2022.
The school board met in executive session at nearly all 20 meetings this year. In comparison, trustees held at least one executive session in 15 of its 25 meetings in 2015 and 17 of their 30 meetings in 2014.
In 2022, the longest closed door meeting occurred in August when school trustees met for four hours and 8 minutes in the final meeting before the 2022 school board elections. School trustees unanimously approved a 2-year contract extension for superintendent Dr. Dana Fall after meeting in private to discuss the contract terms with district attorney Alex Sherard in executive session.
The lengthy executive session in August was an outlier when reviewing public records of board minutes posted for the 2022-2023 school year on the Cherokee County School District website. The average length of a school board executive session was 1 hour and 8 minutes.
By Scott Powell, The Gaffney Ledger | Read more

Uncovered: SC coroner flouts transparency laws, hires ex-SC State police chief caught in scam

In 2019, Michael Bartley applied for a part-time job as a county deputy coroner. He seemed well qualified, with previous mortuary experience and having served as police chief at South Carolina State University. When asked on a hiring questionnaire whether he had ever stolen anything from his employers, Bartley wrote no. ...
Given Bartley’s past connections to SC State, The Post and Courier in June asked for the coroner’s final report. The newspaper asked again in early October. The newspaper also sought documents in his personnel file from the coroner’s office and Orangeburg County. Under state law, public bodies must respond to a Freedom of Information Act request in 10 business days if records are less than 2 years old. The agency then has 30 calendar days to gather the materials.
Marshall failed to meet those public record deadlines. In a brief email in late July, Marshall brushed aside the request, saying merely that “reports housed in the coroner’s office are protected” from public release by a federal privacy law and the state Freedom of Information Act.
By Tony Bartleme, The Post and Courier | Read more

Lexington-Richland School District 5 extends audit deadline

Lexington-Richland School District 5 has extended the deadline for the third phase of its procurement audit.
The ongoing audit scrutinizes spending going back to the district’s 2008 bond referendum, putting a spotlight on potential overspending on construction projects and other issues.
The board, which saw all incumbents lose re-election in November with spending questions as a backdrop throughout the campaign, voted 5-2 at its Dec. 12 meeting to extend the deadline for the third phase of the audit from Dec. 31 to Jan. 31, maintaining the full budget for the audit that was approved in June.
The members and Superintendent Akil Ross discussed a contractual update regarding the district's audit services, which led to the extension of the deadline.
Board Chair Rebecca Blackburn Hines and Kevin Scully, who recently won election to the board, voted against extending the deadline. ...
Scully expressed concern about emails from the “tainted” accounting firm being used for the audit released through a recent Freedom of Information Act request. He mentioned the possibility of terminating the district’s relationship with the firm and moving in the direction of a South Carolina-based firm that complies with the district's shop local initiative and campaign.
By Kailee Kokes, Lexington County Chronicle | Read more

Editorial: No more secret meetings? School board should back chair’s transparency pledge.

It’s been a year since the Charleston County School Board pulled its winter break massacre, emerging from a closed-door session at a special called meeting on Dec. 29, 2021, to announce that Superintendent Geritta Postlewait had decided to resign.
Of course, that wasn’t precisely true: As Dr. Postlewait’s contract and separation agreement made clear, the board paid the superintendent half a million dollars to go away, and a year later we still have had no explanation why or even acknowledgement that she was forced out.
There’s little chance that we’ll ever get an explanation, since the half million dollars bought Dr. Postlewait’s silence, and only one of the 2021 board members remains on the board after last month’s election; the new members likely don’t even know the reason themselves.
That’s one reason — but certainly not the only one — we were delighted to learn that at least when it comes to the search for a permanent superintendent, School Board Chairwoman Pamela McKinney is sticking to her pre-election promise to our editorial staff to do the public’s business in public whenever that’s legal.
From The Post and Courier | Read more

People & Papers


Worthington retires from Pageland Progressive Journal

Don Worthington’s first professional byline was “news obituary” about a high school tennis player. For his final bylined piece, Worthington has written his own “news obituary” about his career. ...
Don Worthington is retiring after chasing the news for four decades.
Worthington, 66, is currently the editor of the weekly Progressive Journal in Pageland, S.C.
Worthington has worked for 10 different news organizations in six states.
The Associated Press, Newhouse News Service and McClatchy Newspapers distributed his work nationally.
His “beats” were government/politics, business, health care, religion and sports.
By Don Worthington, Pageland Progressive Journal | Read more
Bilson shows photos that she made to kids at the Middle Passage Remembrance ceremony. (Photo by Andrew Whitaker, The Post and Courier)

Photography intern takes staff position at The Post and Courier

Laura Bilson interned with The Post and Courier's photography department this summer for 12 weeks. When she finished up her bachelor's degree at Ohio University this month, she returned to Charleston for her first staff photographer job at The Post and Courier.
Laura spent a few weeks working on the importance of sea turtle preservation during her internship along with several historic events including a Murdaugh bond hearing, a middle passage remembrance amongst other daily assignments. 
From California, Laura is excited to get to know Charleston on a deeper level and expand on connections she made during her internship.
"I feel very grateful for this opportunity to continue to cover this community, as well as find my groove as a staff photographer amongst my amazing mentors and coworkers" said Laura. "Balancing daily assignments and long-term storytelling are important to me, and I’m thrilled that I have the chance to do that in this new full-time position."
The last copy of The Post and Courier from the printing press at 134 Columbus St. sits on a conveyor belt early on Dec. 18. The newspaper now prints at a new press facility on Leeds Ave. in North Charleston. (Photo by Henry Taylor, The Post and Courier)

Post and Courier launches redesign with start of new printing press

Dec. 19 marks a significant fresh beginning in our history as we proudly print the first issue of The Post and Courier on our new presses purchased in January 2020, and now fully operational at 4500 Leeds Ave. in North Charleston.
The new presses represent an investment in journalism and a free press in South Carolina for generations to come. Along with the launch of the presses, today we premiere a more vibrant newspaper design with all the content our readers enjoy in an engaging and contemporary format with more color available.
By PJ Browning, The Post and Courier | Read more
Sumter Mayor David Merchant and Nathan Smith, senior at Sumter High School, at the mayor's office on Dec. 6, 2022.

Day in a journalist's life: 3 high school seniors spend day in news industry with The Sumter Item

Three Sumter students were given the chance to dive into the local news industry this fall semester and proved they have the drive of a journalist.
This month, The Sumter Item wrapped up a job-shadowing opportunity for students within Sumter School District high schools. One student from each school - Lakewood, Crestwood and Sumter High - visited the local newspaper's office at 36 W. Liberty St. to spend a day in the newsroom.
The Sumter Item welcomed job shadows Ojore Brown, senior at Lakewood, Lillian Tillman, senior at Crestwood, and Nathan Smith, senior at Sumter High.
Each visit was a full day in the world of a reporter. The students sat in on newsroom meetings where we plan our week of coverage, learned about the newspaper's multimedia offerings, talked about the different beats reporters cover, learned about covering local government meetings, and practiced their interview skills with Sumter's mayor.
By Shelbie Goulding, The Sumter Item | Read more

Compelling Writing by Jerry Bellune

By Jerry Bellune,
Writing Coach

Have fun with your readers

Do you have fun in writing for your readers? You should.
It’s near the top of my list of the fun things to do with your clothes on.
I’ll bet you may not know that conservative newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, has women covering sports and they seem to enjoy it.
Veronica Dagher recently wrote of a sports fan facing a dilemma:
His favorite cafe raised his go-to hamburger to $9.99, so he switched to chicken.
Then both went to the nose-bleed level of $12.99. 
The cafe owner blamed inflation.
Her patron switched to avocado toast at $5.99 with his own protein bar and banana.
Kudos to him
, Veronica wrote, for a sensible choice.
However, on most college or NFL game days, replacing inflationary-priced grilled or smoked meats with avocado toast would be “tantamount to inciting a riot.”
Even economists employ humor.
Michael Swanson of Wells Fargo writes Super Bowl parties are up 14% or more.
If you love chicken wings, prepare for sticker shock - up 26%.
“Pick pork,” Swanson writes. “Prices are up 7%, a bargain this year.”
You don’t need to cover economics or sports to write like this.
It will work in feature stories and some news stories.
It will work in sermons, speeches and letters but regrettably not in pharmaceutical prescriptions. 
Have fun and your readers will, too.
Next: How to attract readers
The holidays may be over but you can consider a gift for a  teenager who seems inclined to follow in your footsteps - writing coach Jerry Bellune’s The Art of Compelling Writing, available for $9.99 at

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