Your connection to industry & member news
Your connection to industry & member news
Your connection to industry & member news  |  Sept. 14, 2023
By Eric P. Robinson, USC School of Journalism and Mass Communications

Is your website being used for AI? Can you stop it?

Chatbots such as ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence services have exploded online since their introduction just a few months ago. They have become so popular in part because of their uncanny ability to mimic human writing and thought on any topic, even if the information they provide is often wrong.
The information—and disinformation—that these services offer are largely the result of comprehensive web surfing and collection of material from online sources. Since most of the material online is protected by copyright, this has led many to question what websites can and should do about this, including asking whether use of this material as fodder for chatbot and AI programs is somehow copyright infringement.
In recent months, several copyright infringement lawsuits have been filed against AI companies’ use of material created by others, including legal claims filed by authors, computer code writers, stock photo agencies and visual artists.
Could newspaper publishers join them? (The New York Times, for one, has reportedly considered filing its own lawsuit.)
There are four ways that AIs and chatbots use material found online: collecting the material from various websites; retaining the material; analyzing the material and using it to “train” their language skills; and using the material as a collection of “facts” for the production of text and/or graphical responses to user queries and instructions.
Let’s address the legalities of each of these:
Whether the collection of copyrighted material by chatbots and AIs is infringement is an open legal question. In non-digital activities, after all, “mere” collection of research data is not in and of itself infringement, unless the collection involves making an unauthorized copy of the source data. So, for example, a researcher can use facts from a newspaper article in her research, and use that information by quoting portions of the article or paraphrasing it in the final product in a way that does not substitute for the original article. (Of course, ethics would likely require citation of the article as a source.) These would likely be considered “fair use.” But she could not just copy the text of the article and present it as her own; that would be copyright infringement. Read more

Last call to RSVP for Sept. 21 Education Beat Reporting Roundtable

Monday is the final day to sign up for SCPA's Covering Education Roundtable on Thursday, Sept. 21, from 10:30 a.m. until 2 p.m., at SCPA Offices in Columbia.
This event will be an informal space to share ideas and collaborate on how to best cover the complex issues our state’s local school systems face. Journalists who cover education topics are welcome to attend.
Topics are up to the group, but may include: story/series ideas, FOI/legal issues; building trust with sources, storytelling with data, hot button issues affecting schools, meeting coverage, challenges you face on the beat and more. We’ll also allow time for open discussion.
SCPA Attorney Taylor Smith will be on hand to talk about legal and FOI matters, as well as answer your questions. 
Patrick Kelly, Director of Governmental Affairs for the Palmetto State Teachers Association, will also attend to provide a brief overview of the issues facing S.C. schools, teachers and students.
The cost to attend is $25, which includes a boxed lunch. Sign up to attend!

Celebrate National Newspaper Week Oct. 1-7

National Newspaper Week will be celebrated Oct. 1-7.
2023 marks the 83rd celebration of National Newspaper Week. Since 1940, Newspaper Association Managers has sponsored and supported National Newspaper Week, a week-long promotion of the newspaper industry in the United States and Canada.
The theme this year is "In Print. Online. For You. #NewspapersYourWay." All of the materials are developed from data derived from the Coda Ventures nationwide study conducted for America’s Newspapers and built around the evolution of newspapers and the fact that newspaper readers are from all generations, community leaders and voters.
Promotional print ads, social media ads, web ads, guest columns and editorial cartoons are available for download at no charge to newspapers across North America.
Make it local by editorializing about your newspaper’s unique relevance. This can be about your duties as government watchdog, your coverage of community events, publication of timely public notices and more!
By SCPA Attorney
Jay Bender

South Carolina Supreme Court is unanimous in its support of open courts and open records. Are the trial courts paying attention?

On September 6 the Supreme Court of South Carolina filed an opinion vacating an order which had reduced the prison sentence of convicted murderer Jeroid Price.  The case had received notoriety when reporters and First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe raised questions about how the sentence had been reduced when there was no hearing and no public order.
The order reducing Price’s sentence from 35 years to 19 years was a “consent order” in that the language in the order had been agreed to by Price’s attorney, Richland County Representative Todd Rutherford, and Fifth Circuit Solicitor Byron Gipson. 
No motion seeking the sentence reduction was filed on the record, no hearing was held, and the order was signed by Judge Casey Manning on his final day in office prior to his age-mandated retirement.
The South Carolina judiciary is thought by many to be too deferential to lawyers who are members of the General Assembly.  This perception is aided by the fact that candidates for judgeships are screed by a committee with a majority of the members being members of the General Assembly, and judges are selected by a vote of the legislature with the House and Senate meeting in joint session. Read more

Legal Briefs

Editorial: Jeroid Price opinion should close the door on closed courtroom doors

The S.C. Supreme Court’s long-awaited opinion explaining why it ordered convicted murderer Jeroid Price back to prison should be required reading for all judges, and indeed all public officials. It is the work of an aggressively pro-open-government court that says essentially: We’re considering not just individual opaque actions but the cumulative effect of secret government, and if we’re going to err, it’s going to be on the side of the public access to courts mandated by the state constitution, the federal Constitution and state law.
The court’s decision to overturn now-retired Circuit Judge Casey Manning’s secret order releasing Mr. Price just 19 years into a 35-year sentence turned not on criminal law per se but on the breathtaking secrecy surrounding that order.
From The Post and Courier | Read more

FOIA Briefs

Editorial: Here’s an example of how all governments should make big hires

The city of Charleston’s process for selecting its new police chief should resonate not only with those interested in the city’s public safety but also with other state and local government leaders who may be involved in a big hire one day.
That’s because the city’s process is pretty close to a model of transparency that will give the public much more time and opportunity than usual to weigh in. Far too often, governments do the minimal amount required to inform the public of the finalists for an important public position before the decision is made, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
In fact, while boards usually at least go through the motions of naming finalists moments before taking a vote, it’s all too common in cases such as this — where the chief executive rather than a board is doing the hiring — for the public to be closed out of the process entirely, with an announcement of a hire simply being made at some point. Only after the fact will someone file a Freedom of Information Act request for the names of three finalists, and that can result in delays and even charges.
But because Mayor John Tecklenburg recognizes the importance of this job and wants Charleston’s new police chief to be broadly accepted by the community, the city has released the names of five finalists selected from its original list of 34 hopefuls. And it has scheduled interviews with City Council members on Monday, followed by media availabilities with each candidate and later interviews with others in the community before the mayor makes his choice. As long as the mayor doesn’t rush into a decision — and we wonder if it wouldn’t make more sense to wait until after the election to make a hire, to ensure that the new chief is picked by whoever is going to be mayor for the next four years — that timetable should give people time to raise questions or concerns about candidates in time for the mayor to look into them. Although it’s nice to give the public the opportunity to get a feel for the personality of the finalists, the ultimate value of such an open process is to crowdsource the vetting, to ensure that the city doesn’t make a choice it later comes to regret because it simply didn’t know enough about a candidate.
From The Post and Courier | Read more

Charleston school board meeting about superintendent sparks tension among board members

After tensions grew over a special-called Charleston County school board meeting that four board members said alarmed them, the meeting ended with no action taken.
The meeting, which was held almost entirely behind closed doors in executive session, featured agenda items about the superintendent’s contract and a personnel matter.
Ahead of the Sept. 11 meetings — a committee-of-the-whole meeting was held first — trustees Courtney Waters, Darlene Dunmeyer-Roberson, Daron Lee Calhoun II and Carol Tempel sent out a statement saying that they only learned of the special-called meeting’s scheduling late in the afternoon of Sept. 8. They also claimed the meeting was planned by the other five board members — Pam McKinney, Carlotte Bailey, Keith Grybowski, Ed Kelley and Leah Whatley — who they noted are all backed by the conservative parents’ rights group Moms for Liberty.
By Maura Turcotte, The Post and Courier | Read more
Related: New CCSD superintendent defends self to school board (By Hillary Flynn, The Post and Courier)

People & Papers


Heatherly, Heller transition leadership roles at Post and Courier Columbia/Free Times

Top leadership is changing at The Post and Courier Columbia, as South Carolina’s oldest and largest newspaper continues to expand its capital city bureau.
Chase Heatherly, who has served as Free Times publisher and chief revenue officer of parent company, Evening Post Publishing Newspaper Group, will transition to tackling his CRO role full time. Bernie Heller, a veteran newspaper executive, will take over the lead business executive role at Post and Courier Columbia and Free Times. He will also work as the bureau’s advertising director.
Heatherly, who started as the Free Times publisher in 2017, took over as the company’s chief revenue officer in 2022, and has spent the last year juggling both roles. Now, he is passing the publishing torch to Heller, who has spent nearly 30 years in various advertising, sales and marketing roles at newspapers across the country. 
The leadership change follows just a month after The Post and Courier Columbia and Free Times relocated its offices to the Main Street District to accommodate its growing editorial and business teams.
By Leah Hincks, The Post and Courier Columbia | Read More

Industry Briefs

Philanthropies pledge $500 Million to address crisis in local news

Many major philanthropic groups have increasingly focused their attention in recent years on helping struggling local newsrooms. Now they are joining forces.
On Thursday, more than 20 nonprofit organizations announced plans to invest a total of $500 million over the next five years in local media organizations, one of the biggest efforts yet to address the crisis in local news.
The initiative, called Press Forward, is spearheaded by the MacArthur Foundation and supported by organizations including the Knight Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
Press Forward will use the $500 million to fund grants for existing local for-profit and nonprofit newsrooms, help build shared tools, provide resources to diverse outlets and those in historically underserved areas, and invest in nonpartisan public policy development that advances access to news and information.
By Katie Robertson, The New York Times | Read More

McCormick, Lincoln development at risk as USPS claims federal law concerning a halt to new home mail delivery a “trade secret”

 The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) re­sponse to a Freedom of Informa­tion Act Request by the Journal Messenger & Reporter news­paper contends that federal law concerning USPS to be a “trade secret.”
In the response USPS contin­ued refusal to cite federal code authorizing the halt of home mail service to all new addresses in the United States, claiming exemp­tion from FOIA disclosure based on 5 U.S.C. 552(b)(3) Section 410(c)(2) to allow withholding “information of a commercial nature, including trade secrets,” implying that federal law con­cerning USPS operations is a “trade secret.”
The issue is hitting residents of Savannah Lakes Village in Mc­Cormick especially hard, as the local post office is refusing to de­liver mail to new homeowners in the long-established community. USPS is applying the 2012 USPS plan retroactively to require clus­ter boxes in existing subdivisions that were completed before the plan was authorized. 
From The Journal Messenger | Read more

Sept. 18 is deadline for Report for America newsroom applications

Next Monday, Sept. 18, is the deadline for Report for America applications 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:
  • Diverse, talented slate of candidates to choose from
  • Subsidized salary support for up to three years.
  • Local fundraising coaching and resources, including the opportunity for fiscal sponsorship to accept donations .
  • Extra training and mentoring for journalists.
“We understand the challenges today’s newsrooms face, not only finding talented journalists but also providing the mentorship and support they might seek,” said Earl Johnson, vice president of recruitment and alumni engagement at Report for America. “By partnering with Report for America, local newsrooms are better positioned to cover important issues, diversify their newsrooms, and grow sustainable, local support within their communities.”
The application deadline is Sept. 18 and newsrooms will be publicly announced in December. More information about how the program works can be found here.
By Sam Kille, Report for America | Read more

Google files motion to dismiss Gannett's ad tech lawsuit

Google on Friday filed a motion to dismiss a federal antitrust lawsuit from Gannett, America's largest newspaper chain. The complaint alleged Google's dominance in digital advertising undercut revenue for news publishers.
The big picture: Gannett's lawsuit, filed in June in the Southern District of New York, is one of several antitrust complaints made in recent years against Google over its ad tech dominance.
  • The Justice Department sued Google in January for "corrupting" the digital ad market, which is worth more than $200 billion in the U.S.
  • European antitrust officials charged Google $1.7 billion in 2019 for abusing its advertising market position.
  • Hundreds of newspapers across the country have filed class action lawsuits against Google and rival Meta, accusing them of exploiting their ad dominance to the disadvantage of competitors.
Details: In its motion to dismiss the lawsuit, Google denied it abused its position as a dominant ad tech provider to hurt competitors.
By Sara Fischer, Axios Media Trends | Read more

New Medill survey shows higher-than-expected news engagement among teens

An oft-cited factor in the continued struggles of traditional news outlets has been the sense that young people are disengaged from the news. But the News Socialization Study, a new survey commissioned by the Medill School at Northwestern University, reveals that teenagers may be keeping up with current events more than previously thought.
“The survey found more engagement with news among teens than we were expecting,” says Stephanie Edgerly, professor and Associate Dean for Research at the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. Edgerly oversaw the survey, which was conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago. “We found that 29% of teens said they encounter news daily. That’s encouraging.”
Paula Poindexter, professor at the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Texas at Austin, shares Edgerly’s positive reading of the survey results, though she says she would like to see those numbers grow.
“The daily engagement numbers in the survey were higher than I would have expected,” says Poindexter, author of “Millennials, News and Social Media: Is News Engagement a Thing of the Past?” “That’s a good thing, but there’s certainly an opportunity for teens to become even more engaged.”
By Rick Reger, Northwestern University Local News Inititative | Read more



William Steele, former reporter and Anderson magistrate, dies

William Pressley Steele, Jr., passed away peacefully at his home surrounded by his family on Thursday, August 31, 2023.
Born in Anderson, SC, to William Pressley “Press” Steele, Sr., and Sadie McGukin Steele, William attended North Anderson Elementary School, McCants Middle School, and T.L. Hanna High School. He received his B.A. in History from Erskine College before completing a M.A. in Journalism at the University of Georgia. He spent several years serving as a reporter for the Aiken Standard, Rock Hill Herald, and The State newspapers before completing his J.D. at the University of South Carolina. He briefly entered private practice before becoming a hearings officer for the South Carolina Employment Security commission. He then returned home to Anderson where he was appointed a county magistrate, a job he held for 24 years. Read more


By Al Cross, Sustaining Rural Journalism

Kansas case is an inflection point for rural newspapers

After local police raided the office of the Marion County Record and the home of its owners, creating a national outcry that was entirely justified, the question was asked in newspaper offices around the country, and sometimes in their pages: “Could this happen here?”
It’s more likely in some places than others, depending on the nature of the paper, the town, its leaders and the police.
In the Record’s case, the accountability journalism that Publisher Eric Meyer practiced and taught in Milwaukee hasn’t gone down well with some powerful people in his hometown of Marion, Kansas, since he returned two years ago.
But eight years ago, such a raid would have been hard to imagine, even in towns where the newspaper’s relations with police and elected officials are poor.
What has happened in the last eight years? For one thing, social media have become the primary source of information for Americans, and a presidential candidate – who was president for four of those years – has used social and other media to cast all news media as “the enemy of the people.”
Social media are often more compelling and entertaining than the local news reported by community newspapers, so they have shifted Americans’ attention more in the direction of national events and issues. That, and the declining audiences of local news media, have reduced citizens’ familiarity with their local media and blurred the distinctions between local and national media.
All that gives comfort and perhaps license to the adversaries of local news media, like the Marion police chief whose past the Record was investigating but had not reported at the time of the raid. Using some trumped-up assertions and assumptions, he got a low-level magistrate from another county to sign search warrants. Read more

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Thanks to funding from the SCPA Foundation, "Earn Your Press Pass" a self-paced online community journalism training course is now available to SCPA members at no charge. Sign up to start learning!
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