|FOI reform dying in Senate as session ends
The FOI reform bill awaiting debate by the full Senate most likely won’t get it.
Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, removed his objection to the bill Tuesday night, giving some hope that the bill would be taken up for debate. But by Wednesday morning Sen. John Scott, D-Richland, had put his name on the bill. Scott was a vocal opponent of the bill in full Judiciary Committee and is aligned with county interests. “I see little chance he will take his name off,” said SCPA Executive Director Bill Rogers.
The bill, H. 3235, passed the full House and, with the help of Senate Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin, R-Pickens, was headed to the floor for debate and likely amendments when Hutto put his name on the bill and more than a dozen others in a political maneuver. Hutto had favored the bill in committee.
The bill would have done away with research charges for public documents, limited copying costs to the local prevailing copy rate, cut the response time from 15 working days to 15 calendar days and provided a 30-day deadline to produce requested documents. At the last minute, Rep. Rick Quinn added an amendment removing the FOI exemption for Legislative documents.
“I think our plan should be to regroup for next year,” Rogers said. “We can try to work with Rep. Bill Taylor (the primary sponsor) to fix the Legislative exemption and maybe do some other fine tuning. We probably ought to try to get a companion bill introduced in the Senate and start early. This is the second year of a two-year session, so the bill will have to be refiled and start the process over.
“We think this bill would have passed without the poison pill of the Quinn amendment to add removal of the Legislative exemption,” Rogers added.
|Hearing on criminal FOI case sets deadline
Magistrate Kirby Shealy ruled at a hearing Monday in Winnsboro that the solicitor in the criminal FOI case against the Jenkinsville Water Co. has 15 days to decide whether to prosecute or the case will be dropped.
The ruling in the second-ever criminal FOI case in South Carolina came after attorneys for both sides said they had different information about whether the prosecutor will go forward with the case.
Jay Bender, representing complaining witness James Denton, said he had been told the solicitor’s office would prosecute, although reluctantly.
The solicitor’s office had apparently not been notified of Monday’s hearing and was not represented. Denton was notified by defense attorney Crosby Lewis.
Lewis told the magistrate he had not received prosecution documents pertaining to his client, which legally must be provided to the defense council. He also asked for dismissal of the charge on the grounds that months had gone by since the complaint was lodged and no action was taken. He said the solicitor has told him on several occasions he was not going to prosecute the case.
Bender told the judge the solicitor had been provided with all the pertinent documents by Denton.
Lewis also argued that the water district could not be successfully prosecuted because they were acting on advice from their attorney.
“Although a misdemeanor, this is an important case to citizens across our state who can’t afford to sue to get public documents released,” said Bill Rogers, executive director of the S.C. Press Association, an advocate for open government. “‘Let’s hope the solicitor steps up and addresses what we think is an obvious violation of the law. You can’t violate the law because your attorney tells you it’s OK.”
Circulation ideas, postal concerns shared at Weekly Roundtable
Circulation ideas –involving the Postal Service and carrier delivery – were shared recently at SCPA’s Circulation Roundtable for Weeklies.
Postal expert Max Heath told participants that if they weren’t using “Exceptional Dispatch” privileges, they should likely be doing so to speed delivery and save work.
Heath, participating by telephone, said Exceptional Dispatch can be used to drop carrier-sorted mail into the offices where it is delivered inside the primary market area, usually a county. This requires a letter to the local postmaster telling them you plan to do this.
He also suggested papers should use the newly-won right by NNA to count paid electronic subscribers and website access.
Brad Lammers, manager of business mail entry for the USPS in Columbia, said that publishers should not see a change in delivery as the result of reorganization if they drop ship at the destination post office.
Steve Robertson, publisher of the Horry Independent and sister papers, discussed his use of carriers to deliver his paper.
You can still register for coaching by a senior pro
Six newspapers are signed up for a coaching visit by a retired veteran newspaper professional through the SCPA Foundation. Four other coaches available and it is not too late to get one, but time is running out.
Instead of having a single coach this summer, the SCPA Foundation has
set up a cadre of retired or senior journalists, professors or publishers who would be available to come to a selected newspaper for a half-day of coaching on a particular news, management or advertising topic. This can include one-on-one work with writers, editors or sales reps.
The visits could also be simply a visit with management to share ideas.
There is no cost to the newspaper. The coaches are volunteering their time and the Foundation is paying their travel expenses.
Still available are:
If you would like to have a visiting coach, or if you would like to volunteer to be a coach, email or call SCPA Executive Director Bill Rogers (803) 750-9561 or email@example.com
- Jeff Wallace, retired editor form Aiken, who will coach on writing and newsroom topics.
- Terry Plumb, retired editor from Rock Hill and Hilton Head, who will coach on newsroom topics.
- Mark Laskowski, retired publisher from Florence, who will coach on marketing and ad topics.
- Doug Fisher, Senior Instructor at USC, who will coach on editing, new media.
“These folks have a wealth of experience that they are willing to share,” Rogers said. “We hope member newspapers will take advantage of this opportunity. Just give me a call and we’ll set it up. This is for small newspapers too, so don’t worry if you only have one or two on staff.”
Coaches already assigned are Butch Hughes, Harry Logan, Henry Price, Larry Timbs, Trisha O’Connor and Jerry Bellune.
How to check candidate ethics filings online
Want to check a politician’s campaign disclosures and statements of economic interests? It can be done online as follows:
- Go to http://ethics.sc.gov (no www)
- Click on the Public Reporting button up at the top under the Commission logo.
- Click on Individual Financial Reports
- Click on Candidate Reports
- Type in last name of candidate in block specified, hit next.
- Choose the candidate you seek and click on name
- Pick the report you want
|S.C. native’s tale is fiction but gives true insight into Palmetto State culture
CODE OF THE FOREST, A REVIEW
By Jay Bender
Good writers write what they know. Jon Buchan knows South Carolina, its people, its politics (for better but mostly worse), race relations, tobacco, newspapers and the law, and he has skillfully woven all of these elements into The Code of the Forest.
Set in Georgetown, Code tells a tale of corruption and the personal challenges of those who would confront it in the pages of a newspaper and in court.
If you are a South Carolinian, whether for a lifetime or a month, you will know state Sen. Buck Ravenel, his son Tripp, the head of the state’s environmental regulation department, Judge Dupree Jones, and newspaper editor and publisher Wade McNabb. If you’re lucky you also know former corporate lawyer Kate Stewart and young, energetic reporter Sandy Anderson. You might even have had a drink in a bar like Sliders Oyster Bar run by Bobo Baxter who can quote beach music and rock and roll lyrics “the way a Southern Baptist preacher cites scripture.”
Chances are, unless you are African-American, or particularly sensitive, you have been served by, but probably didn’t take more than passing notice of chef Dewey “Do-Right” Wright or his nephew Cole Wright, an aspiring law student, paralegal and fill-in waiter at a hunting and fishing retreat for the powerful and connected in South Carolina’s “bidness” community.
The story focuses on a libel case, a confidential source, the potential loss of a newspaper and the threat of environmental degradation of coastal wetlands by a phosphate mining company. Sidebars explore personal and familial relationships and reveal how each of us in a small state is connected by all that and has gone before.
Is the story true? No, but it conveys truth. And, as we know, the truth will set you free.
Buchan is a native of Mullins, a former newspaper reporter and editor, and for many years a lawyer representing North Carolina newspapers facing some of the challenges presented in Code.
For the last couple of years South Carolina has supplied ample material for the Daily Show and for South Carolina native Stephen Colbert’s The Colbert Report. Buchan’s book might not make you laugh at our situation like these TV shows, but, like those shows, the book forces us to acknowledge that the picture presented is very close to reality.
Besides, you pick this book up, you’ll have a hard time putting it down until you have finished page 362. Code of the Forest published by Joggling Board Press, $24.99.
Jay Bender is the Reid Montgomery Professor of Journalism at the University of South Carolina and a media attorney representing the S.C. Press Association.
|SCSU trustees violate FOI by taking poll in executive session
The Times and Democrat reported last week that S.C. State University trustees took a poll during executive session, before they announced their pick for interim president of the school.
SCPA Executive Director Bill Rogers said any poll taken in executive session is illegal.
“They cannot take a poll,” he said. “Polls in executive session are not allowed. The law is clear they cannot take action in executive session.”
Barnwell County Council violates FOI disclosure
Last month The People-Sentinel reported that the Barnwell County Council entered into closed session to discuss a contractual matter -- as stated on the agenda -- regarding the Quad County Park.
Upon returning to open session, council took action on a matter; however, it was not the Quad County Park Agreement. Instead, they voted to authorize Barnwell County Administrator Pickens Williams Jr. to provide up to $60,000 to settle Medicare and Medicaid claims against the Barnwell County Hospital.
As the Medicare/Medicaid matter was not on the agenda nor mentioned as being discussed in closed session, The People-Sentinel contacted Mosteller to see how council determined to vote on the matter.
Mosteller said there were actually three contractual matters discussed in closed session—the Quad County Park Agreement, the Medicare/Medicaid matter, and creating the multi-county healthcare park. He said all three matters should have been mentioned to the public before entering into closed session—as required by the S.C. Freedom of Information Act—but were not.
Cahn named Chronicle-Independent editor as Bruce transitions to Shaw News
The Chronicle-Independent of Camden announced leadership changes last week. Martin L. Cahn, previously associate editor, has been named editor. Keri Todd Boyce, Localife and West Wateree Chronicle (WWC) editor, becomes managing editor and the paper's former editor, Martha Bruce, will transition to editor of The Shaw News. She will also continue to work on C-I special sections.
Cahn, who joined the C-I in July 2000 as the city of Camden reporter, was named associate editor in April 2005. He will be a “writing editor,” continuing to cover Camden City Council and KershawHealth Board of Trustees meetings. He will also continue to write his weekly Monday column.
Boyce came to the C-I team as an education reporter in 2008 after graduating from Winthrop University. In 2009, she became the editor of the West Wateree Chronicle and shortly after, also took on the role of Localife editor for the C-I. In 2011, Boyce accepted the title of graphic designer for The Camden Horse, a new equine magazine Camden Media Co. debuted last November.
Decision now in hands of Postal Regulatory Commission
By Paul Boyle, NAA
Ignoring concerns expressed by newspapers – and many members of Congress – that its proposed negotiated service agreement with Valassis Direct Mail will cause harm to newspapers’ Sunday insert business, the U.S. Postal Service reaffirmed its support for this special-rate deal in reply comments filed on June 1 with the Postal Regulatory Commission. Newspapers nationwide had asked Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe to reconsider the proposal in order to study the potential for a negative market impact on local newspapers.
In its filing with the PRC, the Postal Service argued that the NSA is designed to provide better pricing that would “inject more competition in the marketplace.” In contrast, the Public Representative – appointed by the Commission to represent the views of the general public – noted that this is the “first NSA that is designed to manipulate prices and to alter the balance of market forces.” The Public Representative went on to say that “this NSA as currently structured is a lose-lose proposition for both the newspaper industry and the Postal Service.”
The Postal Regulatory Commission, an independent agency with oversight of the Postal Service, will have final say on the proposed NSA. The regulatory body takes its responsibility seriously and in every proceeding provides for an open process to receive public comment on Postal Service proposals. View all of the comments that have been filed in this critical proceeding on the PRC website. (Important note: In the “Docket No.” box, scroll to R2012-8 and click “submit”).
The PRC is expected to reach a decision by June 14. It can reject or approve the proposal. If the PRC determines there isn’t sufficient data to analyze the impact on the marketplace, it can send the proposal back to the Postal Service for more data.
Freedom sells Fla., N.C. papers
Freedom Communications Inc. has sold 20 Florida and North Carolina newspapers to Daytona, Fla.-based Halifax Media Group, The Orange County Register reports.
"The purchase of Freedom's Florida and North Carolina properties further demonstrates our commitment to newspapers, not only for their value as an investment, but for the value they provide to the communities they serve," Halifax Chief Executive Michael Redding said.
In January, Halifax acquired newspapers in the former New York Times Regional Group, including The Herald-Journal in Spartanburg. The N.C. papers are Gaston, New Bern, Shelby, Jacksonville, Kinston and Burlington.
Poynter Institute faces financial problems
The Poynter Institute, which owns the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times) is facing financial problems because of declining income from the Times.
Google data shows banner ads aren't dead yet
Google's focus on the display space shows no signs of weakening, as it continues to invest in its range of display ad products and technologies. That stack gives it unparalleled insight into the overall state of the display ad market, from which it released some data today designed to address some of the assumptions often bandied about the industry. First up: Banner ads aren't dead yet, but small ones are. 468×60 units — once the workhorse of online advertising — now account for fewer than 3 percent of all display ad impressions. Meanwhile the "three musketeers" — the medium rectangle, leaderboard, and skyscraper — represent almost 80 percent of total impressions.
Report: 14% of N.A. mill capacity at risk
More than 14 percent of newsprint manufacturing capacity in North America could be shuttered by 2017, according to a report issued by a forest product industry analyst.
RISI, in its Global Newsprint Risk of Closure Study, said that there is a “high risk” of closure for more than 2 million tons of the 7 million total tons of North American newsprint manufacturing capacity over the next five years.
“Declines in newspaper circulation in developed economies over the last decade, due largely to media tablets and mobile devices, will continue over the next several years,” said John Maine, RISI’s vice president of graphic paper.
RISI said that North American and European mills most reliant on recycled newsprint as a fiber source are at the greatest risk of closure.
Warren Buffett discloses 3.2% stake in Lee Enterprises,
Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has taken a small stake in Lee Enterprises , which owns The Times and Democrat in Orangeburg. This is the latest in its string of investments in newspaper publishers in the United States. According to an amended 13F filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Berkshire owns about 1.7 million shares of Lee Enterprises, or about 3.2 percent based on its latest shares outstanding. The investment comes less than a month after Berkshire announced a deal to buy Media General Inc's newspapers for $142 million.
How we say things does matter
After several months away from this column while, among other things, trying to refashion a j-school curriculum for the digital age, I thought we'd pick back up this month with some recent research you can use. We know, for instance, that how we tell the news affect the way people perceive it, but it's always good to have some guidance as we choose our words and figures.
Numbers vs. units
We probably realize saying something will happen in 365 days is perceived differently than saying it will be a year. "Numerosity" is a long-established concept that people perceive as larger the expression using a larger number, even for the same idea.
||Five strategic tips for Mom and Pop
Most of the businesses in your town are locally owned and operated "Mom and Pop" establishments. That means that most of the advertisers – and prospective advertisers – in your market are small businesses.
When it comes to marketing, these advertisers don't have access to ad agencies on Madison Avenue or number-crunching marketing officers in the home office. They depend on local sources for help. And your paper plays an important role.
Here are five things that Mom and Pop advertisers should keep in mind as they develop their overall strategies: