Your connection to industry & member news
Your connection to industry & member news
Your connection to industry & member news  |  March 11, 2021
By Ken Paulson, Director of the Free Speech Center

Sunshine Week: Open government is key to honest government

Editor's Note: Sunshine Week starts Sunday! SCPA will have a SC focused house ad and column later today on the S.C. News Exchange. The national Sunshine Week content kit has been updated to include graphics and a social media toolkit. AP's article package, as well as Op-Eds from the News Leaders Association, should be available soon.
When government fails, it’s the rare public official who says, “Oops. My fault.”
That’s human nature, particularly for officials in the public eye who may have to run for office again. No one wants to be held directly responsible for letting the public down.
Case in point is the recent catastrophe in Texas, when unexpected winter storms left 4 million homes without power, ruptured pipes and tainted the water supply for many. 
Texas’ energy grid essentially collapsed. While Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was quick to blame frozen wind turbines, the cause was much more complex than that. To truly understand how things went so terribly wrong will require time, study and research.
So, too, with the coronavirus vaccine distribution. In this state and others, residents are frustrated with the slow rollout of vaccines. Is it poor distribution? Politics? A flawed strategy? These are literally matters of life and death.
But how do you get to the truth when public officials so rarely step up to take direct responsibility for failures?
The answer is public records. And public meetings. And access to the information that taxpayers deserve. Read more

Orangeburg Leader, Bamberg County Leader apply for membership

SCPA will be presenting weekly newspaper membership applications from the Bamberg County Leader and Orangeburg Leader to the Executive Committee on March 19. 
Andy O’Byrne Sr., publisher of the Aiken Leader, The Calhoun Times Leader and The Kershaw News-Era, launched two new weekly publications in October. The Bamberg County Leader and Orangeburg Leader are published each Wednesday. The Orangeburg Leader covers northeast Orangeburg County, east of the Four Hole Swamp. 
If you have any comments about this application, contact Jen Madden.
Member Spotlight: Reba Hull Campbell
What do you like best about your job?
After 35+ years working at the intersection of government and communications with elected officials, candidates, state agencies and non-profits, I retired from the Municipal Association of South Carolina two years ago. My “bonus career” now is off and running as a consultant, writer and teacher (and long-time associate member of SCPA). This new career path has allowed me to follow my personal passion of writing for a variety of publications and my personal blog, working with students and young professionals, and supporting several PR and media relations clients whose work I believe in. My greatest joy has come from teaching college students at UofSC and Newberry College. I’ve loved not only the classroom teaching, but also the additional coaching I’ve been able to do with new and young professionals to help them fine tune the small things that get them noticed in interviews.

What is your proudest career moment?
Back in the early 2000s, I worked for SC Educational Television as their lobbyist. A federal mandate had put a huge unfunded requirement on all broadcasters across the country to convert from analog to digital transmission. I was charged with developing and carrying out an advocacy/communications strategy to secure state and federal funding. This three-year process culminated with full funding before the deadline.

What’s your favorite SCPA member service?
In my current job and as a long-time associate member, I find most useful the media guide, the news contest and the news exchange where I can share my writing work. In every job I had pre-retirement, I was an unabashed advocate for my organization joining SCPA as an associate member. I always found the media guide essential to my work. I always encouraged my staff to enter the associate member award competition. All of these interactions increased my organization’s ability to be better stewards of our media relationships, cultivate connections in the media, and stay on top of trends in the industry.

What adjustments have you made during COVID-19?
Teaching sure looked different after returning from spring break last year! I’m a face-to-face kind of person, so adapting to online teaching was a real challenge for me. I must say, however, in my writing work, I really like the idea of using Zoom for writing interviews instead of traditional phone calls.

When it’s safe to get out and about again, what are some area attractions/restaurants in your community we shouldn’t miss?
My favorite restaurants in Columbia include Tombo Grill in Forest Acres for dinner, Eggs Up Grill on Devine for breakfast and Crave Market on Millwood for lunch (all have strong “Cheers factors” which is even more important to me in this COVID era). My recommendation for perfect old time pizza is LaBrasca's near the Ft. Jackson entrance. My husband and I sorely miss live music which drives a lot of our social life. We love the outdoor venues like Steel Hands Brewing, Market on Main and the Hangar at Owens Field.

What is something most people don’t know about you?
My dream is to perform on the Grand Ole Opry. I’m a huge lifelong country music fan and had the chance to stand on the stage at the Opry when I was 19. Ever since, I’ve had a dream of performing in a spangled top and cowboy boots. I knew it was one of those dreams you only dream because I have no talent to sing or play an instrument. However, I have found a way for that dream to come true – maybe in a different venue and in a different outfit. See response below for the rest of the story.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Music is my first love. I’ve long accepted the fact I can’t carry a tune, hear pitch or catch rhythm. But my life changed five years ago. A friend introduced me to a group of women who gathered weekly to “sip n strum” and learn to play the ukulele. The group is run by a local music school and led by the singer of a popular Midlands duo. Each week, we learn a few new songs and chords, enjoy a few sips together and occasionally play in local parades or small events. The first time I stepped on stage with this unlikely group of “sip n strummers,” I felt my Grand Old Opry dream had somehow come true. The fact we played Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” seemed entirely appropriate! Travel is my other love. My husband and I were returning to the U.S. on the last plane out of Lima, Peru, to Atlanta on March 16, the day the state shut down. Since then, travel has been limited to venturing 40 minutes from home to our little condo on Lake Murray or to visit family in MS.

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

FOI Briefs

DHEC committee met secretly about COVID-19 vaccines. Attorney says it violated law

A South Carolina advisory committee that helped finalize the state’s distribution plan for coronavirus vaccines met 12 times last year without public notice and failed to record official meeting minutes, leaving residents in the dark about decisions the group was making and violating state law, according to a leading expert on the S.C. Freedom of Information Act.
Jay Bender, an attorney for the S.C. Press Association, said the Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Vaccine Advisory Committee, or VAC, “consistently” violated FOIA provisions over a three-month span in 2020 as it neglected to post public meeting notices, convene in public and record official meeting minutes. Those failures to provide basic information occurred as the committee’s volunteer members offered feedback to DHEC on which South Carolinians should be prioritized for shots, according to unofficial notes from the committee’s then-weekly meetings that DHEC provided to The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette.
“Like everything else done in secret, it undermines the credibility of the organization,” Bender said.
By Sam Ogozalek, The Island Packet | Read more

Lexington ended mask mandate in meeting that violated state law, SC press chief says

The Lexington Town Council voted to suspend the ordinance that requires people to wear face coverings in retail establishments soon after Gov. Henry McMaster announced plans March 5 to lift state mask rules in restaurants and state buildings.
But the town failed to follow a state requirement for a 24-hour notice when it met and voted on March 5, the state’s main press advocate said.
Word of the vote was posted on the town’s Facebook page at 8 p.m., three hours after McMaster’s announcement, but no notice about the meeting or an agenda were posted on the town’s website or social media pages.
Lexington Town Attorney Brad Cunningham said the council’s voted on an “emergency” ordinance that doesn’t require the 24-hour notice.
But Bill Rogers, executive director of the S.C. Press Association, disagreed, saying that eliminating a mask covering ordinance “is not an emergency” and the town needed to follow state open-records laws in notifying the public about the meeting.
By Al Dozier, Special to The Post and Courier Columbia | Read more

Judge in Greenville orders Scott Kohn to pay $501 million in veterans' benefits case

A federal judge in Greenville has ordered California businessman Scott Kohn to pay $501 million in a civil case involving the buying and selling of military veterans' benefits, an illegal practice illuminated by an investigation of The Greenville News.
Kohn and a web of his affiliated companies must pay $436 million in restitution to thousands of veterans and other pensioners across the nation, according to an order that U.S. District Judge Bruce Hendricks signed last month.
By Kirk Brown, Greenville News | Read more

Secrecy still order of the day in S.C. court system

If an ethics complaint is filed against a South Carolina judge, in most cases the public will never learn the details.
That’s because court rules adopted by the five-member S.C. Supreme Court – the state’s top court – largely ensure secrecy in the process.
For example, under court rules, misconduct proceedings against judges and related records become public if formal charges are authorized by a seven-member investigative panel of the 26-member Commission on Judicial Conduct, which is appointed by the Supreme Court.
But in the last 10 fiscal years, no formal charges were filed by investigative panels, according to annual commission reports reviewed by The Nerve.
Instead, of the total 3,016 received and pending complaints during the period, 2,553, or nearly 85%, were dismissed – the vast majority by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC), the Supreme Court’s investigative arm, with the remainder dropped by investigative panels.
For complaints that weren’t dismissed, judges typically were issued a private “letter of caution,” which isn’t consider an official sanction under court rules and involves no misconduct or minor misconduct that doesn’t warrant a formal sanction.
By Rick Brundrett, The Nerve | Read more

Industry Briefs

To retain subscribers, The State sees the eEdition as a key product to increase loyalty

To hold onto loyal readers, particularly those who read the print edition, encourage them to activate their digital access to your content including the eEdition, which often has more content than your print edition.
This “win” comes from The State newsroom, whose Dwayne McLemore, director of sports and video, teamed with McClatchy’s Phil Schroder, head of engagement and retention, and their coach Amanda Wilkins, product manager. Isabella Cueto, now a reporter with Lookout Santa Cruz, also contributed. The newsroom participated in the Poynter Table Stakes program in 2018-19 and the Gannett-McClatchy Table Stakes program in 2019-20.
From Better News | Read more

Opinion: How to cover vaccine hesitancy

For months now, the Covid vaccine story has been largely about scarcity—who is eligible for the limited supply; who qualifies as an essential worker, or for which “tier” or age bracket; and how soon can we get more. Given President Biden’s recent announcement accelerating the timeline for broad vaccine supply, that storyline is about to evolve as availability grows and eligibility expands to the general population. American newsrooms will be tested as the narrative moves from who can’t get the shot to who won’t get the shot.
Poll after poll shows a stubbornly large percentage of Americans who say they will not get the vaccine when it’s available. In some communities, such as the military, a majority of respondents say they will resist. The reasons for such opposition are complicated and diverse, and highly correlated to individual exposure to information found online.
Over the past three months, Aspen Digital—the Aspen Institute’s media and technology program—hosted multiple gatherings of experts and news executives at the national and local levels to help newsrooms explore how to responsibly report on the vaccine.
By Vivian Schiller, Aspen Digital to Columbia Journalism Review | Read more

Iowa reporter acquitted in case seen as attack on press

IOWA CITY, Iowa — An Iowa jury on Wednesday acquitted a journalist who was pepper-sprayed and arrested by police while covering a protest in a case that critics have derided as an attack on press freedom and an abuse of prosecutorial discretion.
After deliberating for less than two hours, the jury found Des Moines Register reporter Andrea Sahouri not guilty on misdemeanor charges of failure to disperse and interference with official acts. The unanimous, six-member panel also acquitted her former boyfriend, Spenser Robnett, of the same charges after a three-day trial in Des Moines.
The verdict is an embarrassing outcome for the office of Polk County Attorney John Sarcone, which pursued the charges despite widespread condemnation from advocates for a free press and human rights.
By Ryan J. Foley, Associated Press | Read more
The News Leaders Association is hosting a free virtual event on March 25 featuring women leaders who will share how they've been navigating work and home life as top news leaders. When the rest of the world went to work at home, so did our top editors along with their small children, adult children and, in some cases, their grandparents. These female leaders will share how they’ve been navigating work and home life as senior managers working from home — including their struggles and joys. Is there such a thing as a work/life balance? Katrice Hardy, who previously served as executive editor of The Greenville News will serve as a panelist. Here are more details.

Columns

By David Chavern, News Media Alliance

Support ‘safe harbor’ bill to help save local news

Local journalism is more important than ever. Over the past year, as the nation has moved through one major challenge after another — from the COVID-19 pandemic to the reignited social justice movement to the explosive 2020 U.S. presidential election and its aftermath — people have been turning to their local news publishers to learn how the changes happening around the world affect their daily lives.
While local news has experienced a readership boom, unfortunately, revenue to local news has been more of a bust. That’s because companies such as Facebook and Google routinely profit off of the content produced by news publishers. The duopoly earns 70% or more of every advertising dollar spent online, leaving publishers with the remaining pennies to help pay for news. That imbalance is part of the reason the news industry has lost more than 28,000 jobs since 2008, and why 1,800 communities have lost their local newspaper since 2004.
In South Carolina, 15 newspapers have shuttered since 2004, and newspaper circulation has declined by 23%. Twenty-three counties have only one local news outlet, and one county, Allendale, has no local newspaper at all.
This kind of loss is a detriment not only to the news industry, but to democracy. Each publisher that is forced to shutter means less information for South Carolina’s residents. But there is a solution: the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act. Read more in The Post and Courier
By John Foust, Advertising Trainer

Advertisers’ blind spots

When we learned how to drive, we heard about blind spots. Those are the areas which are not visible in our rear and side view mirrors. As a result, we have to be extra careful when we change lanes.
The term “blind spots” has become popular in today’s business environment. It refers to significant things that are not acknowledged or given fair consideration by management. Outside observers are often perplexed by the fact that certain obvious factors are always ignored. 
Blind spots are common in the advertising business. Let’s take a look at a few examples: 
1. Family. This can be a big blind spot in family-owned businesses. It’s a clear sign if you hear something like, “My grandfather wrote our ad slogan, and if it was good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.” Or, “My son just finished a marketing class, and he’s got some good ad ideas.” Or, “My niece says we need to have a bigger presence on social media.” Read more

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