Your connection to industry & member news
Your connection to industry & member news
Your connection to industry & member news  |  March 24, 2022

Coastal Observer editor to lead S.C. Press Association

Charles Swenson, editor of the Coastal Observer in Pawleys Island, has been elected president of the S.C. Press Association after a vote of the Press Association’s membership.
Other officers elected were: Richard Whiting, executive editor of the Index-Journal in Greenwood, as daily newspaper vice president; Nathaniel Abraham Jr., publisher of Carolina Panorama in Columbia as weekly newspaper vice president; and Steve Bruss, executive editor of The Greenville News, Independent Mail in Anderson, and Herald-Journal in Spartanburg as treasurer.
Elected to two-year terms on the SCPA Executive Committee were: Cliff Harrington, editor of The Herald in Rock Hill; Autumn Phillips, executive editor of The Post and Courier; and Hal Welch, general manager of The Journal in Seneca.
Re-elected to continuing terms on the SCPA Executive Committee were: Andy Brack, publisher of Charleston City Paper; Chase Heatherly, publisher of The Post and Courier Columbia/Free Times and Chief Revenue Officer for Evening Post Publishing Newspaper Group; and Abbie Sossamon, associate publisher and news editor of The Gaffney Ledger.
Swenson succeeds Don Kausler Jr. of Florence, contributing editor to the Index-Journal.
“We regularly hear about the challenges faced by newspapers, but ours is a business that routinely brings new challenges with every deadline. The last two years have shown how well South Carolina’s newspapers can adapt to meet challenges unlike any others,” Swenson said. “In the last three weeks, we have seen fresh evidence of the vital role a free press plays in preserving democracy.”
Swenson earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California and a master’s degree from University College London. He was later a Reuters Foundation fellow at Oxford University.
He founded the Coastal Observer newspaper in Pawleys Island in 1982. He continues to operate the paper with his wife, M.P. “Squeaky” Swenson, and their son, Trevor.
In addition to serving on the board of the SCPA, he is chairman of the board of the Frances P. Bunnelle Foundation, which has the mission of improving the quality of life for Georgetown County residents.
The press association was founded in 1852 and serves the state’s 15 daily and 74 weekly newspapers.
The election was held during a virtual Annual Business Meeting on March 16.

SCPA names top honors

During SCPA's Awards Celebration Banquet, held March 11, and the Collegiate Meeting on March 18, we honored our state's top journalists.

President’s Awards for Excellence:

Under 3,500 Division — Pageland Progressive Journal
3,500-6,500 Division – Myrtle Beach Herald
Over 6,500 Division – Greenville Journal


Under 8,500 Division — The Sumter Item
8,500-25,000 Division — The Island Packet
Over 25,000 Division —The Post and Courier

Journalist of the Year:

Daily Winner: John Monk, The State
Weekly Winner: Brian Garner, The News & Reporter

Photojournalist of the Year:

Andrew J. Whitaker, The Post and Courier

Assertive Journalism Award:

Daily Winner: Chiara Eisner, The State
Weekly Winner: Barbara Ball, The Voice of Blythewood

Montgomery/Shurr FOI Award:

Daily Winner: The Post and Courier
Weekly Winner: Travis Jenkins, The News & Reporter

Jim Davenport Award for Excellence in Government Reporting:

Seanna Adcox, The Post and Courier

Collegiate Journalist of the Year

Under 5,000 Enrollment Division: Jaliah Robinson, The Panther, Claflin University
Over 5,000 Enrollment Division: Kailey Cota, The Daily Gamecock, University of South Carolina

Read full comments for these top honors and more details from the meetings, including comments for First Place winners:

Photos from the Awards Celebration

Photos from the March 11 Awards Celebration and March 18 Collegiate Meeting are now live on SCPA’s Facebook page so you can view, download, tag and share them. Thanks to Gwinn Davis and Kassidy Wright for doing a great job shooting these important events! 

Meet our Hall of Fame recipients

Below are the most recent inductees into the S.C. Journalism Hall of Fame. Recipients were  inducted at SCPA’s Awards Celebration Banquet on March 11. Please read more about these remarkable journalists.  
Ken Burger
Dean B. Livingston
John Henry McCray

Publication of Murdaugh phone call recordings raises legal issues 

South Carolina’s Freedom of Information Act provides that state agencies must provide public records, within certain parameters and exceptions, to the public upon request. It also defines “public record” as including “all books, papers, maps, photographs, cards, tapes, recordings, or other documentary materials regardless of physical form or characteristics prepared, owned, used, in the possession of, or retained by a public body.”
So when the Murdaugh Murders Podcast made a FOIA request for recorded phone conversations of disgraced attorney Alex Murdaugh from Richland County’s Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center, the jail released recordings of Alex’s conversations with various family members and friends. The release led other news organizations to make similar requests and also led Murdaugh’s attorneys to file a federal lawsuit seeking an injunction against any additional release of the phone call recordings.
Murdaugh’s attorneys—Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin—argue that the recordings are exempt from disclosure under FOIA, citing a federal appeals court decision holding that a New York State convict could not use the federal FOIA to obtain recordings of his phone calls by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration during its investigation of his crimes that were not used in the prosecution. But there are several federal court decisions, cited by Richland County in its response to Murdaugh’s lawsuit, holding that jailhouse phone call recordings were specifically exempted from the federal anti-wiretapping law, and thus were not exempt for disclosure under federal FOIA. The Murdaugh phone calls, the county argues, are not exempt from disclosure under the state FOIA for the same reason. Read more
Post and Courier Editor Autumn Phillips introduces the Uncovered team Avery Wilks, Glenn Smith, Stephen Hobbs, Tony Bartelme, and Voice publisher Barbara Ball during a Sunshine Week panel discussion at UofSC in Columbia on March 14.

Sunshine Week highlights importance of open government

Thanks to all the SCPA members that participated in Sunshine Week! Here are some of the editorials, columns, stories and events from last week.

The Post and Courier hosted in person "Uncovered" events in Columbia and Charleston that featured a group of P&C reporters and one of their 17 community newspaper partners, Barbara Ball of The Voice of Blythewood and Fairfield County. The newspaper also highlighted the importance of Sunshine Week and FOIA during last week's “Beyond the Headlines” webinar series.The campaign focused on The Post and Courier Public Service and Investigative Fund, and how donations go towards FOIA requests and the ability to report on special projects.  
Editorial: Let sun shine in on public's right to know (From The Times and Democrat)

Column: Sunshine Week really year round (By Martin L. Cahn, Chronicle-Independent)
Column: Freedom of Information Act does not always prove illuminating (By Richard Whiting, Index-Journal)
Column: Freedom of Information Act serves you, the public (By Richard Whiting, Index-Journal)
Column: Follow the law by making records, meetings always open for all (By Andy Brack, Charleston City Paper)
Column: Video's time is here (By Matthew Hensley, Index-Journal)
Thanks to the more than 50 SCPA members who volunteered to judge Mississippi Press Association's News Contest this month! We are so grateful for your support and know you'll see some great journalism being done in the Magnolia State!

"Stump Grinders" 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

Attorney calls for transparent search; SCSU group helping find new president

An attorney for the S.C. Press Association is calling for transparency during South Carolina State University’s search for a new president.
The university released a statement on Jan. 27 announcing the start of the search for its 13th president, with S.C. State trustee board Chairman Rodney Jenkins appointing a presidential selection committee.
Article III, Item 1 of the trustee board's bylaws was cited in the release as having given the trustee board sole responsibility “for the selection, periodic evaluation and retention or termination of the university president.”
It was also stated in the release that the selection committee was established as a trustee board ad hoc committee, also in accordance with the trustee board's bylaws.
When asked if a vote to appoint the committee and its members was taken in a public meeting during which a public vote was held, university spokesman Sam Watson said via email, “The chairman appointed the committee.”
But S.C. Press Association attorney Jay Bender says the committee, “could only have been established by a public vote, by a vote in a public meeting. And then the appointment of the members, if it was to be voted on, had to be voted on in public. They couldn't do any of that lawfully behind closed doors.” 
By Dionne Gleaton, The Times and Democrat | Read more

State authorities release video of fatal police shooting in Georgetown County

COLUMBIA — State authorities released dashboard camera video that shows former Hemingway police officer Cassandra Dollard slipped and fell before fatally shooting a motorist last month in rural Georgetown County. 
The State Law Enforcement Division released the footage March 21 of Robert Langley Jr.’s killing after The Post and Courier filed a request for it under the S.C. Freedom of Information Act.
Langley’s family has said they wanted the video released to the public. 
By Steve Garrison, The Post and Courier | Read more

Video released showing Richland Co. deputy fatally shooting man, along with 911 call

The Richland County Sheriff’s Department on Tuesday released a 911 call and video showing a deputy fatally shooting a Black man.
Richland County Deputy Zachary Hentz, who is white, shot 34-year-old Irvin Moorer Charley on Saturday after responding to a call about Moorer Charley assaulting family members and wielding a weapon, the department has said.
The department said it “is releasing a dash cam video and 911 call to be completely transparent with the community and in an effort to provide clarity to misstatements that this was a mental health call for service.”  
However, lawyers for the family said the one-minute video released Tuesday afternoon is not the full story.
“We find it curious that the sheriff’s department has released a one-minute grainy dash cam video and not the body cam footage that was shown to the family on Monday afternoon,” said a statement released by family lawyers Shaquanna Cuttino and Brendan Green.
“We would call for full transparency and all videos to be released. To be clear, there was no knife, and officers were told there was no knife,” they said.
By David Travis Bland and John Monk, The State | Read more

Behind closed doors, Greenville leaders meet privately to discuss public business

Greenville City Council members discuss the nitty gritty of city business behind closed doors. They say their small-group briefings aren't underhanded, but open-government experts have concerns.
Greenville City Council, which promotes itself as a transparent and unified government body, meets to discuss public business behind closed doors, effectively skirting laws that require officials to meet and take action where local residents have access.
In private meetings held to inform councilmembers and coordinate discussion ahead of public meetings, councilmembers are careful not to gather in a quorum, which is a simple majority. That would be a clear violation of state law.
Instead, they gather in groups of two or three.
They learn about high-profile development projects, float policy ideas and discuss items of interest with city staff before the city's business ever makes it on a council agenda.
Councilmembers say the meetings aren't underhanded. But by discussing the nitty gritty of Greenville's business out of the public view, they're leaving taxpayers in the dark.
By Macon Atkinson, Greenville News | Read more

Sumter school board may reconsider vote to oust Martin-Knox

When in the middle of a superintendent search and it is on a meeting agenda, one might think that would be the big news. However, that is not necessarily the case for Sumter's school board.
The district's Board of Trustees has a special-called meeting Monday (March 21), and the executive session behind closed doors includes discussion of the superintendent search, but the trustees will also receive legal advice on a pending claim and a separate pending lawsuit, according to the agenda that was posted Friday.
The claim is from recently ousted superintendent Penelope Martin-Knox, and the pending suit is from area ministers of the Sumter County Concerned Clergy and others, the agenda states.
According to local attorney Dwight Moore, plaintiffs filed the injunction concerning the Feb. 28 vote by the full board to let Martin-Knox walk away with four months remaining on her contract. They say her contract was violated in the process.
The Sumter Item reported the vote and ensuing action on Feb. 28 were illegal under the Freedom of Information Act because they were not listed on that meeting agenda, according to the South Carolina Press Association's legal counsel, Jay Bender. The board and district moved ahead with making Brenda Hafner lead administrator while the search for the district's next superintendent continues. Hafner is chief of schools, like an assistant superintendent.
By Bruce Mills, The Sumter Item | Read more

Fairfield Council Chair blames employees for late audit

WINNSBORO – Moses Bell doesn’t think the public should have been informed about why Fairfield County failed to properly submit a financial audit or how it spends taxpayer money.
“This was a personnel issue and I felt that it shouldn’t be in the public,” Bell, the council chairman, said.
Those remarks came in response to the county missing multiple audit deadlines, prompting the state to withhold currently over $1.5M from the county.
Bell blamed Brad Caulder, former interim administrator, for failing to file the audit on time.
The Voice was unable to reach Caulder for comment before going to press.
The chairman also bemoaned that email communications between Malik Whitaker, the current administrator, and council members about the audit predicament had been shared with The Voice newspaper.
Bell claimed, without evidence, that it was part of a smear campaign.
“This letter was given to The Voice newspaper, after Mr. Whitaker sent it, by a member of council in an effort to discredit mainly the chair of council,” Bell said.
In what appeared to be an effort to keep this information from the public, Whitaker wrote across the top of the email:  “Please note that these emails should only be between council members and Mr. Whitaker.”
Budgetary communications between the administrator and council members are, however, considered public records under the S.C. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
By Michael Smith, The Voice of Fairfield County | Read more

Following escape, some answers about Lexington County jail operations

On Jan. 14, Charles Bradford Deese escaped from the Lexington County Detention Center and was loose in the community for five hours before being recaptured. The incident prompted The Chronicle to ask numerous questions, in writing, of Sheriff Jay Koon about the overall security of the facility and monitoring policies that were in place at the time.
“Sheriff Koon has worked alongside other county leaders to explore the decommissioning and repurposing of the oldest structural parts of the detention center, the construction of new common areas (i.e. booking, release, medical) and the addition of more housing space” Lexington County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Capt. Adam Myrick writes in response to questions about the current facility’s adequacy. “His efforts will continue as part of his commitment to Lexington County residents to properly care for inmates and, at the same time, protect the community from inmates should the need arise.”
The Chronicle acquired reports documenting the escape through a request under the Freedom of Information Act. Deese, who was being held at the detention center on charges including forgery, failure to stop for blue lights, domestic violence and distribution of meth, escaped the jail from a work detail when taking out the facility’s trash along with other inmate workers, then hiding behind a dumpster and, after the other inmates returned inside, climbing a fence to make his escape.
By Parks Rogers, Lexington County Chronicle | Read more

Secretive emails reveal JDLH chief eyed ousting whistleblower

Top John de la Howe officials, including the school’s president, used private email accounts as they planned to retaliate against a whistleblower and hid other key decisions during the ag school's infancy, a new Uncovered investigation found.
The revelation came in thousands of pages of emails the Index-Journal obtained from Clemson University, where John de la Howe’s president, Tim Keown, used to work. These emails also suggest he was promised a position at the fledgling school months before the job was posted.
He wasn't alone in using a non-agency email account. As interim president, Sharon Wall relied heavily on a Yahoo! email account, with some of those messages captured in other requests when they included someone's agency email address or in emails sent to Keown.
Together, these emails raise the curtain on ways state officials sidestep public scrutiny.
"The South Carolina Supreme Court has said clearly that one of the purposes of the FOIA is to prevent public business from being conducted outside of public view," said Jay Bender, a longtime press attorney. "The use of private text or email to conduct public business appears to be an attempt to evade the disclosure requirements of the law.
"Fortunately the General Assembly defined public records in the law to include electronic communications related to public business even if a private account was used."
By Matthew Hensley, Index-Journal | Read more

Unreleased documents leave questions about $90 million sale

After 15 stormy years, the legendary James Brown’s education charity for needy students may at last see the light of day.
What will not be seen; however, are documents that would show whether the charity has been given all the funding that Brown intended.
In December, Brown’s estate announced that its assets had been sold to Primary Wave, a New York music management and marketing firm whose client roster includes iconic artists such as John Lennon, Prince and Whitney Houston.
The sale, estimated at $90 million, included publication rights, master recordings, Brown’s mansion in Beech Island, and rights to his name and likeness.
Columbia CPA Russell Bauknight, fiduciary of the estate, told the New York Times that the sale would endow the James Brown 2000 Trust “in perpetuity.” ...
Despite the global fireworks, however, longtime observers of the estate proceedings were left in the dark about whether the charity received all the funding Brown intended, or whether part of his gift had been devalued and/or redirected for the benefit of individuals.
By Sue Summer for The Newberry Observer | Read more

CRT in schools: Majority of public support current materials, quarter say it's biased

Since 1976, the South Carolina Department of Education has opened its doors for the public to review instructional materials and textbooks taught in K-12 public schools. Between the years 2012 and 2019, the agency received an average of 46 comments annually, until the pandemic forced the department to hit a two-year pause.
In late 2021, as the department announced that it would restart the public review process, educators and lawmakers said that they expected a high level of interest.
The Greenville News filed a Freedom of Information Act request and reviewed the public comments submitted to the state agency. Compared to previous years, the agency received over 200 comments— five times the average number of comments received in a year.
A majority of about 184 reviewers said they supported or made suggestions to improve the quality of the material. For example, educators reviewing science textbooks for elementary school children said that though the textbooks were comprehensive, they needed to include more aids to support first-generation English Language Learners.
By Devyani Chhetri and Krys Merryman, Greenville News | Read more

People & Papers


Moultrie News announces new editor

Knowing exactly what you want to be when you grow up might not be all that it’s chalked up to be. That’s what Kenna Coe, the new editor at the Moultrie News, concludes after feeling that uncertainty growing up.
If someone told her she would be the editor of a weekly newspaper in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, two years after graduating college, she would have been curious to see that story unfold. In a similar way, that’s what drew her to storytelling – hearing how people end up where they are.
“It might take heartache, uncertainty and periods of waiting, but recalling those journeys often creates quite a story,” she said.
Coe enjoys sitting down and hearing those stories from people in the East Cooper community. As a reporter for the Moultrie News for the last 15 months, she has written over 250 articles. Many of those articles informed the community about what was going on, such as upcoming events, Mount Pleasant Town Council updates, community projects and COVID-19 related news.
From Moultrie News | Read more

New look for helps readers

The Morning News has launched a new look for its website –
The website has been redesigned to make it easier for users to find the latest local news, sports, opinion and features. The redesign also updates story recommendations based on each reader’s interests and needs.
Readers also will notice it’s much easier to navigate around the website. Display modules at the top of the home page feature a mix of the latest news, sports, features, lifestyles and opinion options in a visually attractive and user-friendly manner.
The design does a better job of showing readers the variety of coverage the Morning News and provide, including sports, weather, news, business, entertainment and lifestyle stories. It also makes it easier to find photos galleries and videos that accompany those stories.
From Morning News | Read more
Washington Post foreign correspondent Isabelle Khurshudyan wears a “Press” bulletproof vest in Ukraine in December.
Serhiy Morgunov | The Washington Post

Walhalla High graduate, former Journal freelancer reporting on Ukraine invasion

It’s a safe bet that Walhalla High School graduate Isabelle Khurshudyan never pictured spending her 30th birthday in a bunker in Ukraine.
But as a foreign correspondent for The Washington Post, Khurshudyan is firmly embedded in covering a war between Russia and Ukraine.
“I feel like this has been three years off my life,” she said Monday. “It feels like it’s been months of war coverage, when it’s really been 10 days.”
She spoke with The Journal earlier this week while under curfew in Odessa for an interview about what her life is like now. Khurshudyan lived in Oconee County for about six years, went to Walhalla Middle School and graduated as valedictorian from Walhalla High in 2010. She also had bylines in The Journal’s sports section as a freelancer from 2009-12. Her father, Art, is a developer and still lives in the area.
By Riley Morningstar, The Journal, Seneca | Read more
Kalyn Oyer, arts and entertainment reporter at The Post and Courier, placed second in the Business Technology and Arts category of the National Arts and Journalism Award for the Los Angeles Press Club for her local story on Beeple and crypto art. Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

Post and Courier reporter places 2nd in LA Press Club contest for story on artist Beeple

LOS ANGELES — A nationally respected press club recently honored a Post and Courier reporter with a second-place award for her story about Beeple, the Lowcountry digital artist who made $3.5 million in one weekend.
The Los Angeles Press Club recognized Kalyn Oyer, who covers arts, entertainment, food and beverages for the newspaper, as part of its annual National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards.
Oyer’s story, titled “Charleston artist Beeple changing digital landscape, made $3.5M in one weekend,” won second place in the Business, Tech/Arts category.
By Jocelyn Grzeszczak, The Post and Courier | Read more

Industry Briefs

SCPA members invited to Allen University's Black Press Symposium on March 31

The SC Black Press Institute Symposium will bring together students, scholars, media professionals and activists for a day of networking and learning about the past, present and future of African-American media.
This event will be held at Allen University on March 31 from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. 
Featured speakers include CNN analyst Bakari Sellers, SC State House Representative and publisher Wendy Brawley, pioneering civil rights activist and photojournalist Cecil Williams, author Sid Bedingfield, Free Times columnist Preach Jacobs, Charleston Activist Network podcast host Mika Gadsden, and Columbia-based photojournalist Crush Rush.
The SC Black Press Institute Symposium was developed through a National Park Service African American Civil Rights History grant Allen University received in 2020 to support the development of educational materials and programming that focus on the relationship between the Black press in South Carolina and the emergence of the Civil Rights movement in the 1940s. While there is no cost to attend, lunch is $15. View full agenda and register.

Media leaders and Google to discuss paths to a sustainable future — at Mega-Conference April 10-12 in Orlando

The news industry’s relationship with Google and other technology companies is a critical issue impacting the future of local journalism.
During the opening session, the Mega-Conference will welcome Chris Jansen, head of Local News, Global Partnerships with Google, for an open discussion about Google’s relationship with the news industry and what can be done to improve the state of local news.
He will be joined in conversation by P.J. Browning, president and publisher of The Post and Courier, and Conan Gallaty, CEO and president of the Tampa Bay Times. America’s Newspapers CEO Dean Ridings will facilitate the conversation.
Another highlight of the conference will be a forwarding-looking session facilitated by News Media Alliance CEO David Chavern and a panel of industry leaders, including Tony Hunter of McClatchy, Donna Hall of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jeff Johnson of Hearst and Leonard Woolsey of Southern Newspapers, discussing the actions news organizations need to take today to plan for 2025 and beyond.
View the full schedule for the 2022 Mega-Conference, to be held April 10-12 in Orlando, Florida. The dynamic program is focused on developing strategies to further the evolution of the news industry and will feature a wide variety of industry leaders and solutions partners sharing practical information for attendees’ use. The conference is presented by America’s Newspapers and supported by the News Media Alliance.

LMA team shares 5 takeaways from #BorrellMiami2022

“Prepare to go outside your comfort zone” is advice we always give to first-time attendees of Borrell Associates events. The long anticipated wait for #BorrellMiami2022 absolutely delivered on this advice, from the very first session to the very last. Things are going to change dramatically in the next 10 years. Are you ready to embrace that change and seize new opportunities?
There were many great takeaways. Here are a few that really got our attention.
From Local Media Association | 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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