Your connection to industry & member news
Your connection to industry & member news
Your connection to industry & member news  |  Sept. 2, 2021

Members: Share your thoughts about SCPA's Oct. Annual Meeting

The Delta variant has us very concerned about our ability to host a safe in-person SCPA Annual Meeting this October in Myrtle Beach. We’re closely monitoring the status of large events from a safety and health perspective and we're reading about events like ours being canceled left and right.
We didn't think we'd be here again. It's shocking for us to consider that we hosted a social gathering for more than 125 members and friends in mid-July. Things seem so much different these days. 
As you know too well, our state has some major challenges right now related to COVID-19 and we want to do our part to keep our members – as well as your families and communities – safe and healthy. While we want to network and celebrate with you in person and we believe most of our members are fully vaccinated and would have no problem following strict CDC guidelines, we do not want to put you or your families at risk.
To help us move forward with plans, we need to know how you feel about attending an in-person convention this fall. Members: please respond to this short questionnaire no later than Wednesday, Sept. 8. 

SCPA seeks feedback on 2021 News Contest rules

Despite setbacks related to the 2020 News Awards and 2021 convention, we are set to launch the rules and digital entry platform for the 2021 News Contest on Oct. 1. The contest period is for work published between Nov. 16, 2020 – Nov. 15, 2021. The entry deadline will be Dec. 3, and we plan to present the awards in person in March 2022 at the Annual Meeting. 
Our contest committee will collaborate digitally this month to review and tweak the 2021 News Contest rules. If you have suggestions or concerns for the committee about the rules or new categories, now is the time to let us know

Do you have these FOI tools handy?

Over the last few weeks, the FOI Hotline has been ringing off the hook. While the attorneys are dealing with many complex open government questions, some calls coming in are about the basics, like can a council vote on something that's not on the agenda or what constitutes a quorum. We're happy to help with all of your questions, but here are a few FOI resources that may help when something comes up.
If you don't have a copy of our Public Official's Guide to Compliance with the S.C. Freedom of Information Act, now is the time to download the PDF for reference. This guide includes the full text of South Carolina’s FOIA, as well as a section-by-section plain language explanation of the law. It is designed as an easy-to-use guide for public officials, journalists and citizens. We especially love that you can keyword search the PDF for words like agenda, minutes, executive session, quorum or emergency meeting. Printed copies of the guide can also be purchased on our website.
While you're saving that file, go ahead and bookmark What to do when they close court or a meeting. This link tells you what to say when they close court or a meeting, and contains the law and court citations.
And remember, if you're an SCPA member with an FOI or legal question, our hotline is here to help! Just call 803.750.9561 or email us and we'll connect you with Taylor Smith or Jay Bender, our attorneys.
UofSC's Kailey Cota spent her summer as a reporting intern at The Post and Courier Columbia/Free Times.  

UofSC student's internship at P&C Columbia/Free Times affirms passion for journalism 

Kailey Cota, a multimedia journalism major at UofSC, spent her summer interning at The Post and Courier Columbia/Free Times as an SCPA Foundation intern.
During her summer, Cota developed her reporting and writing skills while writing more than twenty stories about the Lexington community as a Lexington County beat reporter. 
She covered crime, breaking news and took a deep look into the inner workings of small-town governments.
She said the most beneficial experiences she had were when she got to work with other journalists, as well as her editor, Andy Shain.
"I got the chance to help comb through documents about details surrounding the murder of six-year-old Faye Swetlik, to take a dive into the corruption of a small town near Columbia and to attend the sentencing day for the trial of Nathaniel Rowland, who was convicted of murdering Samantha Josephson in 2019," Cota said.
"This internship just affirmed to me that I do want a career in the newspaper industry. Andy said his goal of the internship was for me to not leave seeking another profession, such as law, and he certainly accomplished that. I'm planning on freelancing for The Post and Courier and returning to my role as the Managing Editor of The Daily Gamecock at the University of South Carolina more energized than ever."

Invest in the future of our industry

During the summer of 2021, the SCPA Foundation funded $16,000 worth of summer internships to deserving S.C. collegiate journalists. Please support the Foundation's valuable work by making a tax-deductible contribution today.

How to apply 

Internships are open to student journalists who attend a four-year college in South Carolina or reside in South Carolina and attend a four-year college elsewhere. Rising juniors and seniors, and recent college graduates are eligible. Applications for Summer 2022 are now available. The deadline to apply is March 4, 2022.

Carolina HBCU Career Talent Showcase set for Sept. 21

The Carolina HBCU Career Talent Showcase, set for Tuesday, Sept. 21, is a virtual event for employers to engage with students from Benedict College, Claflin University, Voorhees College and other institutions of higher learning in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia. Organizers expect roughly 300 students interested in the fields of journalism, communications, marketing or design to attend.
There's still time to register if you'd like to attend.
SCPA will also participate on behalf of its member papers to promote career and internship opportunities at S.C. newspapers. This way, even if you can’t spare half a day to attend, we can share information about your current and upcoming opportunities, as well as promote the SCPA Foundation’s paid summer internship program. If you’d like us to share information with the students about opportunities at your newspaper, please email Jen Madden the following no later than Sept. 17:
  • Fall 2021-Summer 2022 internship opportunities (with details and deadlines to apply, if available)
  • Current openings for current students and students who are about to graduate (including FT, PT and stringer/freelance opportunities)
  • Anything else you’d like us to share with the students

Legal Q&A: COVID-19 data

By SCPA Attorney Taylor Smith
Q: Suppose my school district or school has statistics about how many students and/or staff have either contracted COVID-19 or received a vaccination shot, is this information I can get through a S.C. Freedom of Information (SCFOIA) request?
A: Yes. Neither state law nor federal law prohibit disclosure of general data about medical information that does not identify an individual or individuals within the data set. Consequently, a written SCFOIA request for information should yield this information.
Taylor M. Smith IV is a media lawyer who represents the S.C. Press Association and its newspapers. As one of our FOI/Legal Hotline attorneys, he is available to answer your open government, legal and libel questions. Call (803) 750-9561.

Quote of the Week

"The problem with these closed-door executive sessions isn’t confined to COVID. It’s just more problematic here, because some of the main public health problems we face are misinformation and a lack of trust in public health officials. Beatrice King was the only member of the four boards who objected to receiving legal advice about COVID rules in a secret session. As she argued before the Richland 1 board voted to kick out the public: 'This needs to be a really, really transparent and open discussion so that the public knows exactly what we’re facing.'"

"Whale Crossing" 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: Say what now? LR5 officials using taxpayer funds to sue newspaper seeking public information

Hold on just a minute.
The Lexington-Richland 5 school board voted 6-0 to sue this newspaper in response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of The State newspaper by senior editor Paul Osmundson, challenging the board reaching a closed-door settlement with former superintendent Christina Melton.
The newspaper’s lawsuit alleges that the school board approved a settlement agreement with former Superintendent Christina Melton, including a payment of $226,368 on top of Melton’s salary and benefits, without a public vote as required by the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act.
The lawsuit also challenged the way school board officers met to set the agenda for board meetings. It was common for several board members to meet privately with the superintendent to decide what would and wouldn’t be on the agenda for the board’s public discussion. The suit alleges these meetings constitute a meeting of a committee of the school board, which by law must also be announced and made open to the public.
From The State | Read more

Editorial: Wilson should expand crackdown on official lawlessness beyond SC mask mandates

...For that matter, [S.C. Attorney General Alan] Wilson could start filing lawsuits over what likely is the most violated law by S.C. state and local governments: the Freedom of Information Act.
And just to pick one of those violations out of the air, he could file suit challenging the Charleston County School Board’s decision earlier this month to kick the public out of its meeting while medical experts briefed it on the spread of COVID-19 infections and how masks can slow that spread. As we noted last week, as much as we agree that we need mask requirements in school, that doesn’t make it OK to violate the law — either the no-mandates law or the Freedom of Information Act. ...
The good thing about filing a few FOI lawsuits is that the payoff could be immense. As we noted Sunday, our courts nearly always rule against governments in these cases. The problem is that too often no one files lawsuits challenging governments’ illegal closed-door meetings or their refusal to turn over records as required by law, because there are rarely enough monetary damages (if any) to cover the cost of filing and fighting an FOI lawsuit.
Mr. Wilson could probably find at least one action a week by a school board, city council, county council or state board or commission to challenge in court. Spend a month or two doing that, and other governments would get the message.
From The Post and Courier | Read more

Environmental law group threatens to sue Greenville County Council over land rule vote

The South Carolina Environmental Law Project has threatened to sue Greenville County Council over its passage of a controversial new land development rule, saying a quorum of council members communicated privately to whip votes before a heavily amended rule was passed without public comment or debate on Aug. 17.
Michael Martinez, a Greenville attorney with SCELP, sent a letter to council members Aug. 27 that warned of a lawsuit if the council did not reconsider its vote at its next meeting. ...
Martinez said the council violated the state’s Freedom of Information Act because a quorum of seven council members “met or communicated in advance of August 17 regarding the proposed amendment” either in person, by phone or electronically and “secretly coordinated” to reach a consensus about the proposed amendment without public discussion.
By Nathaniel Cary, The Post and Courier Greenville | Read more

Dorchester District 2 reports more than 3,500 students in quarantine. Other Lowcountry districts don’t report numbers.

SUMMERVILLE — While complaints from parents around mask usage and quarantine protocols rise, Dorchester District 2 is the only public school district in the Lowcountry actively recording and reporting the number of students and staff in quarantine. ...
In comparison to other districts in the tri-county area, DD2 is the only one providing the number of its students currently under quarantine. 
In the Charleston County School District, officials are reporting that around 1,930 individuals have been identified as close contacts since Aug. 18.
A spokesman with the district said the number of quarantined individuals is likely lower than that since some close contacts are vaccinated. The district didn’t have that exact number available at this time.
More than 600 positive cases have been reported in the district this school year to date.
The Berkeley County School District has nearly 1,000 positive student cases as of Aug. 30.
Katie Tanner, the chief communications officer for BCSD, said the district modeled its COVID reporting features on the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. So it hasn’t been reporting the number of quarantined staff and students.
“However, to better serve our communities by providing the most accurate information, we are currently preparing to add that reporting feature to our COVID dashboard (on the district website),” Tanner said. 
By Jerrel Floyd, The Post and Courier | Read more

People & Papers

P&C moves into new office

Update your address book... The Post and Courier has a new home.
Effective Sept. 1, The Post and Courier's business offices, newsroom, advertising, marketing and customer service departments have moved to 148 Williman Street, Charleston, SC 29403. 
LaFleur

Popular Greenville News columnist says goodbye

Elizabeth LaFleur, who writes the popular 'Ask LaFleur' column for the Greenville News says goodbye to readers this week as her family prepares to move out of state.
In her final column, she noted her departure is bittersweet.
"I cannot begin to thank each of you enough for taking the time to email, write, message and call in your questions. Your emails, that often included notes of appreciation for the existence of this column, are so greatly appreciated," she wrote. "I got into this business because I believe in the importance of helping people understand their surroundings. Writing this column was hands down my favorite manifestation of that purpose."
In the four years LaFleur has written the column, she's had a direct connection to curious readers and the opportunity to research answers to their specific questions. She said it will always be one of her favorite experiences in journalism.
LaFleur is passing the torch to Angelia Davis.
"The column may have a new name and new author, but I am certain it’s in great hands," LaFleur wrote. 
By Elizabeth LaFleur, Greenville News | Read more
Tony Bartelme, foreground, with fellow reporter Glenn Smith, reporting from within the threatened Santee Delta. Photo by Lauren Petracca, The Post and Courier

P&C Pulitzer finalist on an estuary’s tale and stories hiding in plain sight

Tony Bartelme, Glenn Smith and Lauren Petracca of The Post and Courier won first place for outstanding feature story (large circulation or newsroom) in the Society of Environmental Journalists’ 2020 annual awards for reporting on the environment for their coverage of South Carolina’s beautiful and threatened Santee Delta.
Judges said of the project: “Lyrical physical description along with significant research … show how climate change and rising sea levels threaten a landscape of historical and economic significance to all South Carolinians. The Santee River Delta is so wild that even a botanist who has studied it for 40 years can get lost in it, yet it is also rich with artifacts from the slaves who cultivated the rice known as ‘Carolina Gold.’ This entry, gorgeously executed in the best tradition of storytelling about the environment, left a lasting impression.”
Bartelme — a four-time Pulitzer finalist — also has won many other top journalism prizes and fellowships. This track record long ago might have propelled Bartelme to a staff job at one of the nation’s largest and best-known news organizations. Yet, since 1990, he has chosen to remain on the staff of The Post and Courier.
Bartelme’s latest Pulitzer recognition came this year, as part of The Post and Courier staff responsible for the Rising Waters series on climate change, which was a finalist in the Pulitzer’s local reporting category. Bartelme’s earlier Pulitzer finalist recognitions came in 2011, in feature writing, for a story about a South Carolina neurosurgeon trying to teach brain surgery in Tanzania; in 2013, in the explanatory writing category, for a series about high insurance rates, and in 2016, in the breaking news category, as part of a team covering a fatal shooting.
From the Society of Environmental Journalists | Read more

Sumter Item selected for second LMA Lab for Journalism Funding

The Sumter Item has been selected to participate in the second cohort of Local Media Association's Lab for Journalism Funding. The lab, a project of Local Media Foundation, is operated by LMA with continued support from the Google News Initiative and new funding from The Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
The Lab for Journalism Funding will help local news organizations develop and execute strategies to fund essential local journalism, in part through philanthropic support. The four-month immersive lab will run from September through December.
From Local Media Association | Read more

Industry Briefs

Charleston digital agency featured in LMA event on reporting, compensation and events

At Local Media Association’s recent Digital Revenue Summit, attendees received strategic and tactical advice from senior digital leaders and experts at some of the top companies in the industry.
To improve retention with clients through data and reporting, the first thing you should do is start with the end goals in mind. That’s the advice Stephanie Slagle, senior director, brand agency and sales strategy at Graham Media Group, and Reva Henderson, director of client services at King + Columbus, Charleston, gave as a top tip from this session.
In instances where agencies or media companies work with customers who have timely campaigns, brainstorming about the end goal can help them articulate their needs.
“A lot of times clients can’t always see ‘I need to get here by the end of the season, but I’m not sure if I’m going to be pacing properly to get myself there,’” Slagle said. “And we can help put some data towards that.”
If your media company is looking to incorporate more data into the relationship with clients, start with basics such as clicks and clickthroughs, but data points to go deeper include conversion tracking, costs-per-click, and even developing dashboards to share with your clients, Henderson said.
Her company, King + Columbus, develops dashboards for clients, but the team doesn’t expect clients to look at those dashboards all the time. If necessary, she will set up time with her clients to review them together.
By Penny Riordan, Local Media Association | Read more

5 ways to transform education coverage

Education reporters have documented the pandemic’s enormous effects on students, parents, teachers, administrators, and their communities. With policies changing quickly, how can an education reporter lift the voices of those most impacted?
Speakers from news organizations across the country joined a National Press Club Journalism Institute program recently to offer strategies for shaping stories driven by the voices of those underrepresented in education coverage. Read the five tips shared and watch the recording of this discussion.
By Holly Butcher Grant, The National Press Club Journalism Institute | Read more

3 ways news organizations can improve accessibility

At least 2.2 billion people worldwide have some kind of vision loss, according to the World Health Organization. And over 5% of the world’s population is deaf or hard of hearing.
So why don’t media organizations do more to ensure those people can find, access and share their news?
Almost every news organization relies on social media to share information, yet they often overlook accessibility best practices. This leaves out a portion of the population from receiving significant information.
Some, such as The Texas Tribune, have led the way in prioritizing accessibility online. Off-platform editor Regina Mack said that their newsroom uses alternative text and called on other organizations to follow suit.
By changing the way they post to social media and considering how people navigate the digital world differently, news organizations can connect with their audiences in a more compassionate way.
By Katya Bandouil, Poynter | Read more

It's time for Congress to act before slow mail turns into no mail

Did you know that the price you pay for U.S. mail is about to increase, even as our nation still struggles under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic? If you didn’t, you’re not alone. According to a national survey conducted this summer, 77 percent of the American public was not aware of the postage hike.
First-class mail and “forever stamps” are set to increase on Aug. 29 from 55 cents to 58 cents. Rates for most mail will rise by 7 percent, while charities and other nonprofits, magazines, newspapers and catalogs will face an even bigger postage increase of 8.8 percent.
Thanks to a recent Postal Regulatory Commission ruling giving the U.S. Postal Service more power to raise rates, these increases are three-to-four times inflation and follow yet another postage increase earlier this year.
By Art Sackler, Opinion Contributor for The Hill | Read more

Partisan divides in media trust widen, driven by a decline among Republicans

In just five years, the percentage of Republicans with at least some trust in national news organizations has been cut in half – dropping from 70% in 2016 to 35% this year. This decline is fueling the continued widening of the partisan gap in trust of the media.
Nearly eight-in-ten Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (78%) say they have “a lot” or “some” trust in the information that comes from national news organizations – 43 percentage points higher than Republicans and Republican leaners (35%) – according to a new Pew Research Center survey conducted June 14-27, 2021. This partisan gap is the largest of any time that this question has been asked since 2016. And it grows even wider – to 53 points – between liberal Democrats (83%) and conservative Republicans (30%). ...
Americans tend to have greater trust in local news organizations – though there is somewhat of a decline here as well. A large majority of Americans (75%) still say they have at least some trust in the information that comes from local news organizations, modestly lower than the shares who said the same in 2016 (82%) and in late 2019 (79%). And again, far fewer express the highest level of trust (18%).
A similar partisan divide emerges when it comes to local news, though to a lesser extent. As of June 2021, Democrats are 18 percentage points more likely than Republicans to have at least some trust in the information that comes from local news organizations (84% vs. 66%, respectively) – a gap that is again larger than at any time in recent years. Five years ago, 85% of Democrats had at least some trust in local news organizations, while 79% of Republicans did. 
By Jeffrey Gottfried and Jacob Liedke, Pew Research Center | Read more

How we report on pain, death and trauma without losing our humanity

Investigative reporting can mean bearing witness to the worst moments of people’s lives. Here’s how some of Propublica's journalists approach the gut-wrenching task of writing about suffering.

Columns

By Jim Pumarlo, Newspaper Consultant

Are you telling your own stories?

I circulated a column celebrating community newspapers earlier this year in recognition of Sunshine Week. Its publication prompted a few comments.
One reader, who hailed from a Minneapolis suburb, read the column in his local paper. He wrote, in part:
“I enjoyed the message about the relevance and importance of trained journalists. My issue that I struggle with journalism or journalists in general after this latest election cycle is the intentional bias in the reporting. Politically I lean more conservative, and I am very sensitive to the majority liberal bias in the mainstream commercial media. It seems that it is no longer even avoided or denied, but even accepted as a given. … How and why should we trust our journalists to ever be fair and honest in their craft when this bias exists?”
Journalists climb this wall every day, I replied. Community newspapers are far from perfect, I added, but said I find it disappointing and misleading when community press gets branded under the broad brush of “the media.”
He thanked me for my perspective, relating it to his experience in local versus state or national politics. “At the local or community level where we see and greet each other on the street, there is a higher level of accountability and authenticity required than when there is distance that divides us. I will look for that value proposition in my local community newspaper.”
A great exchange, I said to myself, but with only one reader. How do we reach the masses? Read more

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