Your connection to industry & member news | April 23, 2021
Sales tax exemption proviso withdrawn
An effort to remove the newsprint sales tax exemption from newspapers printed out of state has been withdrawn from the budget.
Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Richland, withdrew his proviso Tuesday in a meeting of the Senate Finance Committee.
He had introduced the proviso the previous week and it passed with a committee vote of 15-7.
Jackson said he withdrew his proviso because of Rule 24, which doesn’t allow nongermane issues to be tacked onto the budget. In doing so, he said his attempt had “been fun” and hinted at an effort to introduce stand-alone legislation to remove the exemption.
Thirty-four SCPA member newspapers currently print their newspapers out of state.
“This proviso would have impacted a number of small, rural papers that might not have survived this added tax burden,” said Bill Rogers, SCPA Executive Director.
Rogers thanked the newspaper leaders who reached out to their Senators to fight this bad legislation. He also thanked lobbyist Cathy Dreher and Assistant Director Jen Madden for their hard work in “rallying the troops” to fight the proviso.
Member Spotlight: Bob Sloan
Bob with his grandkids – Julius, 11, and Alexis, 5, cutting up before a church service in Patrick. In addition to working with Swartz Media, Bob serves as pastor of Society Hill Presbyterian Church (Society Hill, S.C.) and Patrick Presbyterian Church (Patrick, S.C.).
Editor, The News Journal, Florence, and other Swartz Media, Inc. weeklies: The Hartsville News Journal, The Marion County News Journal and The Chesterfield County News & Shopper
What do you like best about your job?
Easy. The best thing about my job is the people – the one’s whom I work with and the one’s whom I have the pleasure of writing about.
What is your proudest career moment?
There have been a few. I’m not sure if it’s the proudest, but it is certainly the most memorable. I won the 2012 S.C. Press Association Best Sports News Story/Best of the Best Award for my coverage of the on-field death of Hartsville High School football player Ronald Rouse. Without question the highest writing honor I have received, and also without question my most difficult day/night as a reporter.
What's the most exciting thing going on at your paper?
Not exactly exciting, but we’re signed up to get our COVID-19 vaccinations.
What’s your favorite SCPA member service?
The News Exchange.
What are some area attractions/restaurants in your community we shouldn’t miss?
The monthly Florence After Five events held downtown during the summer. Great music and great fun. For a family outing, the Pirateville splash pad in Hartsville can’t be beat.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
Back in the day I was a fairly decent surfer. I grew up in Hampton, Va., across the Chesapeake Bay from Norfolk and Virginia Beach.
Bonus – I have a pet snake.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I’m a baseball fanatic and longtime fan of the Chicago Cubs. I try to make a pilgrimage to Wrigley Field – the greatest ballpark ever – at least once a year. With two full-time jobs and helping raise two grandkids, there’s not an enormous amount of free time.
Chauvin verdict: Will it affect how body camera footage is protected in South Carolina?
Just before the jury began deliberations in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer found guilty of murder in the death of George Floyd, a member of the prosecutorial team told jurors to trust what they viewed.
"Believe your eyes," prosecutor Steve Schleicher said. "What you saw, you saw."
Evidence presented during the weeks-long trial included chilling footage of the moments leading up to Floyd's death — bystander video and also recordings from the responding police officers' own body-worn cameras.
Floyd, 46, died May 25 after a police officer knelt on his neck for nine minutes. His death sparked protests throughout the United States, including dozens throughout South Carolina and in its Upstate.
Will the jurors finding Chauvin guilty of murder and manslaughter and video being a key part of the evidence have any ripple effect in how law enforcement handles body camera footage in South Carolina — more than 1,000 miles from Minneapolis?
By Nikie Mayo, Greenville News | Read more
‘I whited it out’: SC sheriff’s aide tells how she covered up expensive air travel
A prosecution witness told a federal jury last week how she removed information on receipts that would have shown that former Chester County Sheriff Alex “Big A” Underwood and his chief deputy spent more than $5,000 in county public money to pay for them and their their wives to fly first class to a convention in Reno, Nevada.
“I whited it out and sent it (the receipt) on the county,” testified Hope Bradley, a top assistant in Underwood’s office who was in charge of various department functions including answering the sheriff’s emails, handling bills and scheduling trips.
Bradley said she knew it was not only against county policy to use county money to fly first class, it was also against policy to use public money to pay for spouses’ travel, but she complied with the wishes of department higher-ups.
By John Monk of The State and Andrew Dys of The Herald | Read more
Charleston County said it spent $30M on recycling center. The real cost was millions more.
When Charleston County cut the ribbon on its new $30 million recycling center last year, members of the County Council hailed it as a generational investment in green waste management.
The ribbon-cutting also marked the end of a yearslong construction saga dating to 2016. But documents received from the county under a Freedom of Information Act request also show the ultimate cost of the project was millions more than the county disclosed.
The reasons behind the cost overrun are complex. A former county employee overseeing Charleston’s solid waste management program said he decided during the design phase of the project to downsize the Material Recovery Facility, or MRF, because the budget set for the building wasn’t big enough. But County Council members claim they only became aware of this design change more than a year later, and decided they wanted to make the complex larger again. The fix meant Charleston County spent roughly $7.7 million on work done by two initial contractors that were later abandoned.
This wasted work that cost millions of dollars included custom equipment that was never delivered, a building design that was scrapped and a concrete pad and foundations that were partially ripped out after the eventual building’s size and orientation were changed.
That’s on top of the roughly $30 million that the county said the facility cost at its grand opening last December.
In addition, council started vetting new contractors for the project while the first two contracts were still open, documents show, raising questions about the legality of the procurement process it used. And when the final companies for the building and sorting equipment were selected, the votes by County Council only vaguely referenced discussions that had happened behind closed doors and didn’t name the new companies.
By Chloe Johnson, The Post and Courier | Read more
Despite lewd photo on city phone, fired York fire chief will get full retirement benefits
YORK — York’s longtime fire chief, whose abrupt firing last month stirred controversy through this city of 8,400, will receive his full retirement benefits even after officials discovered lewd material on his government cellphone alongside evidence he planned to delete other public records.
York City Manager Seth Duncan, who last month cited “a pattern of dishonesty” in firing Fire Chief Domenic Manera, said this week he retroactively changed the chief’s official manner of departure to a “retirement.”
The move, which came with at the behest of York City Council, affords Manera the right to receive a $62,000 severance package and to stay in the city’s health, dental and life insurance plans. Typically, fired employees don’t get those perks. ...
The deal is something of an olive branch after Manera’s supporters complained to City Council last month that Manera had been wrongfully fired. They blamed Duncan and called on council to fire the city manager and reinstate the fire chief.
But evidence obtained by The Post and Courier through an open-records request appears to support Duncan’s reasoning for firing Manera.
In his March 9 termination letter to Manera, Duncan accused the chief of using city equipment — including a city-issued cellphone — inappropriately.
Shortly thereafter, The Post and Courier requested data stored on Manera’s city-issued phone.
By Avery G. Wilks, The Post and Courier | Read more
Uncovered: SC school district bought spy cameras and falsified records. Its leader kept her job.
Under Superintendent Wanda Andrews, the Lee County School District installed spy cameras in employees’ offices and falsified state-mandated reports. An investigation turned up evidence so compelling that the state Department of Education and an independent reviewer said she deserved to be taken off the job.
Yet the panel that oversees South Carolina educators allowed her to stay put with little consequence. And her bosses on the local school board rejected calls for her removal.
Andrews’ disciplinary case shows how superintendents in South Carolina can avoid the kinds of punishment that are routinely handed down to the state’s front-line teachers. Andrews kept her job even after the Education Department detailed an exhaustive list of allegations against her in 2019 and said she deserved to be removed from the profession for at least three years.
Instead, the State Board of Education, which holds the power to discipline educators, gave Andrews a public reprimand. It was the equivalent of a note in her personnel file. The board did not explain its rationale for declining to suspend her license, and current and former board members would not discuss the decision.
This examination of Andrews’ disciplinary case is the latest installment in Uncovered, a yearlong investigation in which The Post and Courier has teamed up with community newspapers to expose government misconduct across South Carolina. So far, reporters have found a void in accountability in the state that has led to excessive spending, nepotism and conflicts of interest.
The Post and Courier obtained more than 1,000 pages of documents that shed new light on the findings of the state’s investigation into Andrews and other issues. Those include the failure of the district to comply with the state’s open-records law, and an ongoing criminal investigation into consulting jobs that Andrews and another superintendent had with each other’s district — an arrangement that netted them both thousands of dollars in extra pay.
By Stephen Hobbs and Thad Moore, The Post and Courier | Read more
Kingstree News editor retires
Saying goodbye to coworkers and colleagues is often bittersweet. Someone is leaving, usually, to follow a new pursuit in life, liberty and happiness. But someone is always left behind. This time, the readers of The News in Kingstree will be left behind.
Michaele Duke has distinguished herself during the past years as a sales rep, photographer, reporter and editor with The News. And Duke is beginning her newest chapter in her life’s book. She retired from her duties at The News and the Wednesday, April 21 edition is her last as editor.
Duke also served as a columnist with the newspaper, writing Points on the Curve weekly. In 2014 and again in 2017 she was named the South Carolina Press Association’s Photojournalist of the Year.
For many, Duke’s leaving feels like the end to an era. Duke, who offers all she encounters her trademark wit and sass, said she has covered everything from floods to fires, diversity to unity. She has been the face of The News, participating in fundraisers, dancing on stages, and judging everything from artwork and Christmas decorations to barbecue and handmade grills.
Duke said over the years she has “Made people happy and pissed people off.”
Before she started her career as a news correspondent 2001 with The News, she worked for a period with The Hanahan News, covering various subjects. She has worked for the Associated Press and contributed her photography to various publications over the years.
The highlight in her career, she said, though, came in 1983, when she covered the U.S. Granada invasion by capturing on film evacuated students landing in Charleston.
In 2006 Duke was a sales representative at The News and during that time, on occasion, wrote news stories. In fact, she said, she covered Bill Clinton (campaigning for wife Hillary) and Barack Obama who made campaign stops in Kingstree during the 2008, presidential election.
That same year her title changed from sales rep to reporter. In 2018, she was named editor.
Duke began competing in the South Carolina Press Association journalism contest in 2014. Since then, Duke has won at least 40 awards, most notable, Reporting-in-depth and Photojournalist of the Year twice.
By Dianne Poston Owens Correspondent, The News | Read more
The State and its journalists agree to create union
Newsroom employees of The State Media Co. have formed a union.
The McClatchy Co., which owns several local news organizations in the state, voluntarily recognized The State News Guild on Monday, making The State the largest newspaper in South Carolina to unionize.
In announcing the voluntary recognition, The State’s president and editor, Brian Tolley, said, “We value the work of our colleagues and their commitment to our shared mission of providing essential news and information to our communities. This pathway allows us to accelerate the process of starting negotiations.
“We look forward to working collaboratively with The State News Guild to advance this process and ensure a strong future for local journalism in South Carolina.”
The guild released its own statement, saying, “This is a great first step that shows McClatchy’s commitment to local journalism and the people who make it in South Carolina. We look forward to keeping up this mutual respect at the bargaining table.”
On social media, guild members have expressed an appreciation of working at The State and a desire “to protect what we have.” According to its website, the guild hopes to negotiate better pay, increased job security and more diversity on staff.
Last fall, newsroom employees in two other McClatchy-owned properties, The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette, agreed to organize.
McClatchy also owns The Sun News in Myrtle Beach and The Herald in Rock Hill.
By Mitchell Willetts, McClatchy | Read more
Post and Courier’s Rising Waters series wins prestigious Scripps Howard Award
The Post and Courier has received first-place honors in the prestigious Scripps Howard Awards for its Rising Waters climate change project.
The newspaper received the Excellence in Environmental Reporting Award for the series, which was published between April and December of last year. Rising Waters documented how the accelerating forces of climate change pose an existential threat to the Lowcountry, from wetter hurricanes to “rain bombs” to flooding high tides.
The Scripps Howard judges praised Rising Waters, saying “this compelling reporting shakes complacency and kindles a sense of urgency about the need for preparedness and mitigation before it’s too late.”
The project, which involved a wide cast of journalists from throughout The Post and Courier newsroom, took a unique approach that melded investigative reporting with breaking coverage to expose this creeping threat in real time. Each installment was tied to a flooding event, revealing the science, politics and economics of climate change’s detrimental impact on the Charleston area in a very immediate way.
From The Post and Courier | Read more
The Sumter Item among 30 North American newsrooms selected for Facebook's Accelerator program
The Sumter Item was selected into an international program designed to help news publishers build sustainable businesses, the Facebook Journalism Project announced Tuesday.
The Accelerator, Facebook’s premier business training program for news publishers, brings newsrooms together for hands-on workshops led by news industry veterans, grant money to test, implement, and iterate strategies, and inspiration from similar newsrooms.
“As a family-owned, local newsroom based in Sumter, we’re thrilled to be recognized in such elite company for local media,” Sumter Item Publisher Vince Johnson said. “We’re committed to bringing the Sumter region the absolute best for years to come, and this is a big step along that journey.”
Thirty participants were selected from nearly 300 applications by Facebook staff, Local Media Association staff and Accelerator coaches based on a demonstrated impact on their community, commitment to the program’s requirements and their readiness to pursue their biggest business opportunities, the release states.
Geographically, these newsrooms represent 16 US states, one US territory (Guam), and three Canadian provinces. The Item is the only South Carolina newsroom in this year’s program. The Post and Courier in Charleston is an alumni of the program.
From The Item | Read more
Washington Senator declares local news is critical infrastructure — urges congressional support
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.)U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, yesterday came out strongly in favor of including local news as critical American infrastructure in need of support — highlighting the role of local broadcasters and newspapers as a trusted source of news and information during the pandemic.
“So I plan to, Mr. Chairman, push this issue as it relates to this critical infrastructure investment we're making,” Senator Cantwell said at the subcommittee hearing. “I think news, local news particularly, a trusted source, is frayed beyond belief. And if we don't shore it up, at least until the legal battles play out with the tech industry, that will be making a big mistake. So I continue to appreciate this hearing, because I think it was a good diagnosis of how important local journalism was and I think the critical infrastructure needs to be preserved.”
In October of last year, Senator Cantwell released a report about the impact of unfair practices by major technology companies on local news outlets all across the country. “Local news across America creates competition and trusted information,” Senator Cantwell said in a statement released along with the report. "We shouldn't let regional and community news die as local newspapers and broadcasters adjust to digital delivery because online giants are unfairly leveraging the advertising market against them.”
From America's Newspapers | Read more
SC newspapers encouraged to apply for Press Freedom Accountability Project
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), in collaboration with the News Leaders Association (NLA), launched the U.S. Press Freedom Accountability Project in light of the unprecedented attacks on journalists around the United States. The initiative will support reporting on press freedom violations and accountability.
The U.S. Press Freedom Accountability Project, funded by CPJ, is providing grants between $2,000 and $5,000 for newsrooms reporting on threats to journalists in the U.S., with a priority to pieces that can be published in one to three months. CPJ and NLA seek applications from newsrooms across the country. News organizations can apply, with submissions accepted on a rolling basis. The deadline for the next batch of applications is May 21. More info and the application can be found here.
Facebook is going to ask you more often what you want in your News Feed
Facebook announced a batch of changes in how it organizes your News Feed today, and their organizing principle seems to be: Maybe we should ask people what they want to see? Here’s product management director Aastha Gupta:
"Our goal with News Feed is to arrange the posts from friends, Groups and Pages you follow to show you what matters most to you at the top of your feed. Our algorithm uses thousands of signals to rank posts for your News Feed with this goal in mind. This spring, we’re expanding on our work to use direct feedback from people who use Facebook to understand the content people find most valuable. And we’ll continue to incorporate this feedback into our News Feed ranking process."
By Joshua Benton, Nieman Lab | Read more