Your connection to industry & member news
Your connection to industry & member news
Your connection to industry & member news  |  April 15, 2022

McCormick Messenger sold to Ga. publisher; merged with 2 papers to create Journal-Messenger-Reporter

On April 1, the McCormick Messenger was sold to The Lincoln Journal of Lincolnton, Georgia. Both newspapers, along with the Washington News-Reporter of Georgia have been merged under one new flag – The Lincoln-McCormick Journal Messenger and Washington News-Reporter.
The newspaper published its first larger, expanded edition on April 7.
The paper includes coverage of three South Carolina and Georgia counties and will be distributed to a new market area of more than 27,000.
The combined subscriber base will allow the newspaper to offer new print and digital features and greater news coverage.
The McCormick Mes­senger office will remain in its downtown building.
John Stone is publisher and editor of the newspaper. Teri Eno will serve as general manager and Deborah Stone will serve as government reporter for McCormick County.
The paper’s website is

Four generations of McCracken family published McCormick Messenger since 1905

The McCormick Messenger was established in 1902 by Jouette P. Smith and W.O. Sturkey.
Shortly before his death in early 1905, Smith sold his one-half interest to John Edward McCracken.
His son, Edmond, who he introduced to the printer’s trade, bought Sturkey’s one-half share in 1912.
In the early 1920’s, Edmond bought his father’s interest and became sole owner. John died in 1926. Edmond died in 1962.
Johnny McCracken, Edmond’s son, grew up around the weekly and started working at the paper at age 13 after school and on Saturdays. After World War II, he rejoined the Messenger in 1945 and worked at the paper as editor and publisher until 1974 when the Messenger was purchased by Smythe Newsome and Wilkes Publishing Co., of Washington, Georgia.
The paper was sold to Stephen Jackson in 1980, who sold it to Ken Fortenberry in 1985. Fortenberry sold the paper to Ted Leach in 1987. In 1991, the Messenger was bought by a group of local investors known as McCormick Media Inc.
While Johnny retired in 1992, he continued to write a humor column until his death in 2013.
Vicki McCracken Dorn (Johnny’s daughter), joined the Messenger staff in 1976, and served as general manager and editor until the recent sale. In 2004, Dorn bought shares in McCormick Media Inc. and was one of 10 owners.
By Eric P. Robinson, USC School of Journalism and Mass Communications

Lawsuit settlement will loosen ethics confidentiality

Just as the media have investigated and disclosed numerous examples of apparent conflicts of interest and corruption in state and local government here in South Carolina, a pending settlement of a federal lawsuit will allow whistleblowers who report ethics violations to publicly disclose their allegations without the threat of being prosecuted for doing so.
The lawsuit was filed on Aug. 25, 2021 by Columbia attorney Chris Kenney on behalf of a client who complained to the State Ethics Commission about a state legislator who voted for a bill favored by a lobbyist after the legislator’s businesses received $108,000 over three years from a subsidiary of the lobbyist’s client. The legislator did not disclose the payments on the required annual statement of economic interest. While finding that the allegations in the ethics complaint were factual, the commission ended up dismissing the complaint on the grounds that while the state ethics law required disclosure of direct payments from a lobbying client, it did not require disclosure of payments from a lobbying client’s subsidiaries.
According to the lawsuit, the complainant received a copy of the dismissal with a cover letter from Commission staff dated August 5, 2021. The dismissal has not been publicly disclosed and the identities of the legislator, lobbyist, lobbying client and the lobbying client’s subsidiaries are unknown. The lawsuit identified the complainant by the pseudonym “John Doe” and did not disclose any details about the case because of the threat of prosecution. Read more

SCPA members invited to virtual Ad Symposium April 25-29

SCPA is partnering with the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association to offer convenient virtual ad training at no charge to our members. Over the course of this five day virtual event, you will participate in interesting and motivating daily training sessions led by notable industry experts. You may register for individual sessions or the entire training series. Whether you are new to advertising sales or are a seasoned veteran, you will walk away with practical and effective tips and solutions to help boost your advertising revenue.
Advertising Symposium Schedule:
SCPA members can attend for free thanks to sponsorship from the SCPA Foundation Smoak Fund! Read more about each session and register here.

NewStart information meeting will be held April 28 for students and SCPA member publishers

The NewStart program at West Virginia University identifies and trains the next generation of media entrepreneurs so they can purchase existing community newspapers or other media outlets and transform their business models to ensure long-term viability so news deserts do not expand across the country.
On Thursday, April 28, at 2 p.m., SCPA will host Jim Iovino of NewStart for a Zoom info meeting.
NewStart is currently recruiting its next cohort of students, and is offering an information session to learn more about what the program has to offer – for potential students and for current owners and publishers. 
If you’d like to learn more, please RSVP no later than April 21.

"Friendly" 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

Editorial: All SC school board meetings online? Absolutely. But don’t stop there.

You can spend a lot of money buying expensive video and audio equipment and wiring a space and hiring special audio-visual professionals to livestream meetings. Or you can do it for practically nothing.
For a couple of hundred dollars, you can get a tripod to mount your phone on and an audio adapter that fits the output of a public address system. If the building doesn’t have internet access, you can run the livestream off the hot spot on your phone. And pretty much anyone who knows how to operate a cellphone can stream the whole thing to a Facebook page for free — as hundreds of churches across our state discovered when COVID-19 suddenly forced them to take their worship services online.
Livestream on the cheap might not get you the professional quality of C-SPAN, or even of S.C. ETV’s livestreams of the Legislature, but it’ll be more than adequate to let voters keep up with what their government is doing.
It’s so easy and cheap, in fact, that the main difference between governments that allow voters to watch their meetings online in real time or later at their convenience and those that don’t is the willingness to do so.
From The Post and Courier | Read more

With toxicology report in hand, Caleb Kennedy's attorney requests new bond hearing

The attorney for former American Idol contestant Caleb Kennedy said he has received Kennedy's toxicology report and has requested a bond hearing for April 28.
Kennedy is at Spartanburg County Detention Center facing a charge of felony DUI resulting in the Feb. 8 death of Larry Duane Parris, 54, of Pacolet. Parris was run over by Kennedy's pickup truck and was under the influence of marijuana at the time, according to the S.C. Highway Patrol. ...
After the fatal wreck in February, the Herald-Journal filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the S.C. Highway Patrol for all materials related to the incident, including the toxicology report.
The agency said it would release the materials once its investigation is complete.
"The MAIT (Multi-disciplinary Accident Investigation Team) investigation is still pending," Courtney S. Wiles, Freedom of Information Act manager for the Highway Patrol, said Wednesday. "Also, the toxicology report is part of the MAIT investigation so it cannot be released until the investigation is complete."
In 2016, the state Attorney General's office determined that toxicology reports are considered medical records and thus "confidential" and exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Law.
The opinion was issued at the request of Spartanburg County Coroner Rusty Clevenger and based upon interpretation of state Supreme Court decisions.
Taylor Smith, attorney for the S.C. Press Association, said he believes toxicology reports are public information, but that an agency may redact the medical details.
"They could redact the medical information, but not the conclusion or analysis," Smith said Wednesday.
By Bob Montgomery, Herald-Journal | Read more

SC Education Department probing Richland One amid criminal fraud investigation

COLUMBIA — State officials are taking a closer look at Richland County School District One’s finances amid an ongoing criminal investigation into alleged fraud by one of the school system’s former top purchasing officials, The Post and Courier has learned.
The S.C. Department of Education notified the Columbia-area school system March 28 that it could soon be placed on “fiscal watch,” according to a letter obtained by the newspaper. That designation requires districts to work with state officials to ensure they have proper financial controls and oversight.
State officials met with Richland One leaders a day later, and then again April 6. They asked questions about the investigation, reviewed documentation of the alleged fraud, and inquired about how the employee in question was hired, Education Department spokesman Ryan Brown said. ...
The Education Department began its inquiry into South Carolina’s ninth-largest school district a week after The Post and Courier published a story digging into spending issues at Richland One.
By Avery G. Wilks, The Post and Courier | Read more

As Horry County plans massive landfill expansion, residents demand more transparency

As Horry County officials plan to expand the local landfill by dozens of acres, adding hundreds of thousands of tons of waste each year, residents are demanding greater transparency in how the landfill is run.
“I think you guys are doing a fantastic job, the way this thing is being run is perfect, but you need to open your mouths up in order to communicate,” Andrew Rosaforte, who moved from New York to the S.C. Highway 90 corridor, said. Rosaforte, along with about a half-dozen other local residents, attended a public meeting Wednesday afternoon where they called on the Solid Waste Authority to create a citizen oversight group to monitor operations and complaints about the landfill. “I think it’s important we have some kind of community activist organization, or whatever you want to call it, that lets the community of Horry County know what’s going on at the Solid Waste Authority,” Rosaforte added.
By J. Dale Shoemaker, The Sun News | Read more

Chief justice bars former SC judge from handling foreclosure cases after Uncovered probe

South Carolina’s chief justice has stripped former Greenwood judge Curtis Clark of his job presiding over foreclosures, just days after The Post and Courier reported that his family repeatedly won dozens of properties at real estate auctions he ran.
Chief Justice Donald Beatty’s April 11 order instructs court officials not to assign Clark to oversee any new foreclosure cases. It also requires them to identify every case he’s already been tapped to hear so that they can be referred to someone else.
Clark has acted for decades as Greenwood County’s foreclosure judge in everything but title. Because the county doesn’t have a sitting master-in-equity judge, attorneys are appointed to fill that role on a case-by-case basis. Clark is almost always tapped for the job, court records show.
By Thad Moore, The Post and Courier | Read more

Legal Briefs

Countersuit blasts Lex-Rich 5 school board member’s libel suit for ‘chilling’ free speech

 A woman accused of libel by a Lexington-Richland Five school board member over comments posted on Facebook has filed a countersuit, saying the public official’s claims were an abuse of the legal system meant to silence critics and stifle free speech.
Board Vice Chairman Ken Loveless filed a lawsuit on March 16 against Leslie Stiles, an administrator of a Facebook group titled “Deep Dive Into D5” that has been critical of the current board.
That complaint came just two days after Loveless sued Columbia resident Kevin Scully, who Loveless also accused of posting libelous comments on the Facebook page.
By Jessica Holdman, The Post and Courier Columbia | Read more

People & Papers

Column: A new look but continued quality journalism in North Augusta

Welcome to a new look and a new name for North Augusta’s weekly community newspaper.
The Star of North Augusta has been redesigned, rebranded and expanded. It will now be known as The Post and Courier North Augusta and The Star.
An influx of new people and new business opportunities in North Augusta made this the right time to launch a revamped product. But rest assured that much of what you loved about The Star – stories about local people and events – will continue to be published each week.  ...
The new format for the newspaper will be a long tabloid that is divided into two sections.
The Post and Courier North Augusta section will feature a cover story that explores a local topic and will also include relevant statewide news, business and development news, and investigative reporting.
The Star portion will continue to focus on community news, entertainment, sports and lifestyle features.
Two full-time reporters will cover North Augusta and the surrounding area. Elizabeth Hustad joined the team in December and as senior reporter will focus on in-depth stories and investigative reporting. Samantha Winn has been on staff since June and will continue to report on community events.
A lot of familiar faces and bylines will still show up in the newspaper. Phyllis Britt, who joined the Woodrings in the 1980s and stayed on board after they sold the paper, will continue to write her weekly column. Bill Bengtson, who has covered North Augusta for more than a quarter of a century, also will contribute from time to time.
Distribution will occur each Wednesday, and readership will grow from 6,000 to 23,000.
By John Boyette, The Post and Courier North Augusta | Read more

Post and Courier writers named finalists in 2022 News Leader Association Awards

The News Leaders Association (NLA) has named four Post and Courier writers among its finalists of the 2022 NLA Awards for distinguished journalism and leadership. 
The NLA Awards continue the long traditions of the previous ASNE and APME Awards, and are among the most prestigious in journalism.

Finalist: Batten Medal For Coverage of Climate Change

Tony Bartelme and Lauren Petracca, The Post and Courier — “The Greenland Connection”
Judge's Comments: In an extraordinarily ambitious effort, The Post and Courier explained how Greenland’s melting ice sheet has a profound impact on Charleston and the Lowcountry region of South Carolina. With stunning photography and energetic, accessible writing – no small feat given the science involved – “The Greenland Connection” shows how events 3,000 miles away are reshaping the coastline, changing tides and worsening floods. This is an urgent exploration of the interconnectedness of events around the globe, and our vulnerability if we fail to pay attention. A tour-de-force of impactful journalism. 

Finalist: Deborah Howell Award For Writing Excellence

Jennifer Berry Hawes and Gavin McIntyre, The Post and Courier — "‘I Am Omar:’ A quest for the true identity of Omar ibn Said, a Muslim man enslaved in the Carolinas"
Judge's Comments: “I am Omar” is a fascinating account of how a Muslim scholar was thrown onto one of the last slave ships bound for America, and how the Post & Courier’s Jennifer Berry Hawes and Gavin McIntyre uncovered and retraced his story. This effort has so many elements – history, race, religion – all interwoven into a beautiful narrative that is both important and enthralling. 

Industry Briefs

The LJSA is no empty promise — it’s a bridge for newspapers that would otherwise close

America needs strong local journalism. The Local Journalism Sustainability Act is a giant step forward for the industry while it continues to evolve.

The Local Journalism Sustainability Act has sometimes been characterized as a government handout that will provide more profits to wealthy hedge funds. That is like saying that pizza (with or without the mozzarella cheese) provides sustenance to criminals and fuels their activities. Sure, criminals may occasionally eat pizza, but so do a lot of other people, including me. Saying that pizza is abetting criminals is just plain silly.
The LJSA is a bill that would provide tax credits to newspapers and other journalism organizations that are providing local news and information to their communities. The most recent budget reconciliation act, Build Back Better, included a key provision of the LJSA that would provide tax credits for newsrooms that meet the criteria. Those credits are 50% of the employees’ salary (capped at $50,000), or up to $25,000 per qualifying newsroom employee in year one, and up to $15,000 in years two through five.
The organization receives the refundable tax credits (they get the dollars whether they owe taxes or not) based on qualifying newsroom employees, so the more newsroom employees they have, the bigger the tax credit.
By Dean Ridings, America's Newspapers | Read more
(L to R) Conan Gallaty, CEO and president, Tampa Bay Times, St. Petersburg, Florida; Chris Jansen, head of local news, global partnerships, Google; and P.J. Browning, president and publisher, The Post and Courier

Dialogue, collaboration and bold innovation are themes running through the News Industry Mega-Conference

After a pandemic-caused hiatus, America’s Newspapers’ Mega-Conference is back in 2022 — held at the JW Marriott Bonnet Creek Resort in Orlando, Florida. On the conference agenda are mission-critical topics: boosting subscriptions and engagement, building sustainable business models, and delivering a product and audience that advertisers desire.
The conference kicked off on Monday, April 11, with the first of two sessions that prominently featured representatives from Google. America’s Newspapers’ CEO Dean Ridings moderated the keynote session, featuring P.J. Browning, president and publisher of The Post and Courier; Conan Gallaty, CEO and president of the Tampa Bay Times, and Chris Jansen, head of local news, global partnerships, for Google.
Chris Jansen heads a Google team that fosters relationships with media companies. “Now, more than ever, societies need journalism — to understand their world and to contemplate one’s role as a citizen,” he said. “And we are committed to identifying fact-based quality journalism and making it accessible for all.”
Jansen spoke to attendees about GNI, which launched in 2018, and about the “three Es” that guide their work.
“It’s elevating quality journalism. It’s evolving business models toward sustainability for the ecosystem. And it's empowering newsrooms with technology, and so that’s one question: How do we provide technology that will enable the news organizations to better serve their community?”  
By Gretchen Peck, Editor & Publisher | Read more

Tips on covering the American Rescue Plan Act and public safety

The American Rescue Plan Act means a lot of money is headed into state and local budgets, and one of the places it can go is into police departments for public safety. How can local reporters follow how it’s used?
For our second free, virtual training on how to cover the American Rescue Plan Act, we looked at where to find the data, how to use it and how to report when it’s not available. You can catch up with general resources for covering ARPA and our first workshop on ARPA and public health.
By Kristen Hare, Poynter | Read more

Upcoming Events

As a service to its member newspapers, SCPA lists employment opportunities on our site upon request. There is no charge for this service to SCPA member newspapers. Please email openings to Kassidy Wright.
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