Hometown News closes 6 Upstate weeklies
Hometown News and its publications, The Boiling Springs Sentry, The Blacksburg Times, The Middle Tyger Times, The Inman Times, The Whitmire News, and The Woodruff News ceased publication on December 26, 2012 according to Don Wilder, CEO of the company.
In making the announcement, Wilder said that declining revenues, a depressed economy and a bleak economic forecast forced the decision to close the operation.
The company, founded in 1996, started when it bought three publications; The Blacksburg Times, The Chesnee Tribune and The Spartanburg County News (formerly known as the Cowpens-Pacolet Tribune) from Gene McKowan. It acquired The Woodruff News and The Inman Times in 1997 from Milton Smith, whose father had started The Woodruff News in 1950 and had bought The Inman Times from Inman Mills. This publication was founded in 1922 as a mill employee newspaper.
In 1999 Hometown started publishing the Middle Tyger Times, a free distribution newspaper serving the Duncan, Lyman, and Wellford and Moore areas of Spartanburg County. Two years later, The Boiling Springs Sentry, also a free distribution newspaper was started serving the Boiling Springs area of Spartanburg County. The Whitmire News was added to Hometown’s stable of publications in 2006.
In making the announcement Wilder said “The sad thing about this, other than having to layoff the award – winning staff, is the subscribers and readers of these products in these communities who have lost a local newspaper that was totally devoted to covering events and politics of their area and was willing to inform and stand up for their right to know in a fair and impartial manner. We are proud of the contribution our products have made to this end.”
Click here to read Hometown News Editor Ernie Lambert's column, "Your stories have touched us."

AP reporter Jim Davenport dies
Jim Davenport, an AP reporter who worked doggedly to inform people in South Carolina about what their governors, lawmakers and other powerful officials were doing with their tax money and their influence, died on Dec. 31, 2012. He was 54.
He died after battling cancer for two years.
Davenport was a tenacious reporter. He not only was the first reporter to tell the world in 2009 that Gov. Mark Sanford had been missing for a couple of days, but he followed the story for years. Davenport revealed that Sanford used taxpayer money to upgrade himself to business or first-class on flights and use the state plane for personal trips. That led to Sanford paying a $74,000 fine, the biggest ethics penalty in state history.
During his 13 years with the AP, Davenport also revealed that the state Commerce Department used a private marketing account to pay for $1,000 chairs, a maid for the director's Columbia apartment and alcohol for its Christmas parties. He was a tireless advocate for the state's FOIA, coordinating the first audit that showed how little public bodies and law enforcement agencies understood about the public's right to know.

New ad reps should start the New Year off right at Ad Sales Basics workshop
It's time to motivate your newer ad reps and help them  jump start their 2013 sales at SCPA's popular Ad Sales Basics workshop on Jan. 17, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at SCPA Offices in Columbia.
Our quarterly advertising sales workshop is designed for newspaper ad sales employees with less than a year's experience, but it's also a great refresher course for veteran reps who need a little inspiration. During the session, we'll cover the basics of ad sales including: selling against competition, dealing with objections, closing skills, basic design, consultative selling and more.
Alanna Ritchie, advertising director for the S.C. Newspaper Network, will conduct this full-day workshop. A veteran of weekly and daily newspaper sales, Ritchie will help attendees understand sales basics, and she'll get them fired up about selling ads for your newspaper!
Lunch will be provided. Attendees will also receive the Ad Basics notebook, which contains a wealth of helpful information that Ritchie has collected over the years. The cost is $45. Register today!  Space is limited to the first 18 people.

Journalist sues S.C. Attorney General to release public records
The Free Times in Columbia reported that a S.C. journalist seeking documents related to the death of musician James Brown has sued Republican Attorney General Alan Wilson under the state’s FOIA.
According to court filings, semi-retired Newberry Observer reporter Sue Summer is suing Wilson because he won’t release documents related to Brown’s controversial estate, which has been tied up in convoluted court cases since his death.
After the Godfather of Soul died of heart failure in 2006, former Attorney General Henry McMaster intervened to address infighting over the case, rewriting the Brown estate plan against the wishes of two then-trustees. Brown had wanted his wealth to go toward an educational fund for needy children in South Carolina and Georgia called the I Feel Good Trust. Last November, the State Supreme Court heard arguments about whether the takeover was proper. It has yet to rule. (As attorney general, Wilson has inherited the case.)
In her reporting on the case, Summer has filed FOI requests for documents related to McMaster’s re-writing of the estate plan. She also asked for copies of whatever financial agreement Wilson has with a private law firm dealing with the Brown case.

S.C. attorney general: Public records have limits
South Carolina's top prosecutor says he supports the public's right to know what its government is doing, but he draws the line when releasing information might jeopardize a criminal investigation.
Attorney General Alan Wilson defended his office's decision not to release a report on the investigation into former Saluda County Sheriff Jason Booth, who pleaded guilty in August to a misdemeanor for using an inmate to do work at his home. Booth paid a $900 fine.
In almost any other criminal investigation, the SLED report that was the backbone of the case would be available to the public. But because the State Grand Jury handled the indictment against Booth, Wilson's office concluded that, under state law, any testimony or evidence put before it must remain secret if not released in court.
The only publicly released information was an indictment that barely extended to a second page, a one-page sentencing sheet and a presentation by Solicitor Strom Thurmond Jr. lasting less than six minutes.
South Carolina is seeing a disturbing increase in hiding information during criminal investigations that under the law should be released to the public, said SCPA Executive Director Bill Rogers.
The SLED report also was a public document from the moment it was created, especially because it would have been released in any other circumstance, Rogers said.
Wilson said his firm stance on not releasing information in the Booth case doesn't mean he is against the Freedom of Information Act. He points out his office supported a Charleston radio host who sued the South Carolina Association of School Administrators, saying the organization should have to release records under the law.

Editorial: Public gets black eye over what is public
A public record is a public record, right?
Apparently not. A publicly funded Greenwood County Sheriff's Office employee's personnel file was public record, according to Sheriff Tony Davis. The newspaper asked for and received it.
The newspaper also asked District 50 for the personnel file of an employee, Gina Sargent, who lost her coaching job but retained her teaching job. That was deemed not to be public record, at least by District 50 administration.
The newspaper also asked District 50 for the personnel files of former district teacher Townsend Kirkland, superintendent Darrell Johnson and assistant superintendent Randy Vaughn. All three - with the caveat some information supposedly is protected even under the Freedom of Information Act - were given to the newspaper.
So, if we understand this, the personnel file of a deputy who was under investigation for wrongdoing is public record, the file of a teacher whose removal from a coaching position is under question is not, the file of a former teacher who is suing the district about her dismissal is public record, along with current administrators' files. Confused? Yeah. So are we. While much is muddy here, what is quite clear is District 50 administrators (and perhaps the school attorney) are deciding what is and is not public record - perhaps, we might add, on the basis of what they think will be the least damaging if brought into the light.
How else can one explain why Sargent's personnel file remains in the dark? Sargent is no longer Emerald High School's volleyball coach. She told the newspaper her departure was a combination of her resigning and being fired. The official word from the district is she resigned the coaching post while retaining her teaching post. Her file, along with possible email correspondence the newspaper also requested and was denied, might very well shed some light on her case.

Aiken Standard hires executive editor
Melissa Hanna has been named executive editor of the Aiken Standard and The (North Augusta) Star newspapers.
Hanna replaces Tim O’Briant, who has been promoted to general manager of TootSuite, Aiken Communications’ new dedicated digital division.
Hanna has 16 years of newspaper experience and began her career at the Aiken Standard in 1999, where she served as a reporter, copy editor and copy desk chief. Hanna then left Aiken in 2004 to work at the Athens Banner-Herald in Athens, Ga., serving a seven-year span as the assistant news editor, multimedia director and, ultimately, executive editor before retuning home in 2011 to serve as the multimedia director at the Aiken Standard.
Hanna is a graduate of USC-Aiken. While in school, she was the SCPA Foundation's Mundy Scholar.

Free Times alt-weekly is sold
Free Times, Columbia's local alternative weekly celebrating its 25th year in print, has its second owner in a decade.
Portico Media SC of Charlottesville, Va., has sold the publication, its websites and auxiliary publications to Resorts Media LLC. The announcement was made last month.
Charlie Nutt, who owns Resorts Media, said he was looking for an opportunity with “a good newspaper in a nice community.”
Free Times — and the city of Columbia — fit Nutt’s specifications.
Nutt, who is moving with his wife to Columbia, will serve as publisher.
For the previous two years Nutt, who spent 36 years as an editor and publisher of newspapers with Gannett Company, owners of media properties such as USA Today and WLTX-19, has operated Annlo Communications LLC, a New Jersey-based newspaper consulting business.
Click here to meet the the new owner and publisher of Free Times.

McKagen becomes editor of Weekly Observer
The (Hemingway) Weekly Observer has hired Chris McKagen as managing editor. He replaces Matt McColl, who left the paper to take a marketing job in Florence.
McKagen graduated from Francis Marion University. He previously worked at the Morning News in Florence.

S.C. cartoonist honored with Natl. Press Foundation award
Herald-Journal editorial cartoonist Robert Ariail won the Clifford K. and James T. Berryman Award for Editorial Cartooning for 2012 from the National Press Foundation.
His cartoons are featured in more than 600 publications nationwide.
The awards will be presented in February at the National Press Foundation’s annual gala in Washington, D.C.
“I’m elated and humbled to have won this award,” Ariail said Friday. “In the editorial cartooning community, it’s a pretty big deal!”
The Clifford K. and James T. Berryman Award — named for Pulitzer-winning political cartoonists who were father and son — honors editorial cartoonists whose work “exemplifies a power to influence public opinion, good drawing, a striking effect and an effective use of humor.”

Tiedman named circulation manager of Aiken Standard, The Star
Laura Tiedman has been promoted to circulation manager of the Aiken Standard and The (North Augusta) Star newspapers.
Tiedman had served as delivery manager. Tiedman started her career in circulation in 1992 at a paper in New York, and has been with the Aiken Standard since 2005.

A Newsplex Webinar: The Newsroom of the Future
Newsroom leaders including Raju Narisetti of The Wall Street Journal and analyst Ken Doctor will convene online Jan. 16 to discuss the news industry's future in a free, two-hour webinar hosted by the World Editors Forum (WEF), SNPA and the USC College of Mass Communications and Information Studies. The webinar will begin at 2 p.m.
The first hour will focus on the lessons we have learned from the media transformation that has occurred in the 10 years since the World Association and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) opened its prototype newsroom of the future and training facility, Newsplex, at the University of South Carolina.
The second hour of the webinar will focus on the future of news publishing and innovations in newsrooms.
Click here for more information.

Valassis to roll out its weekend ad package
Direct mail and newspaper insert company Valassis Inc., is expected to roll out its new weekend mailed advertising package January 2013, trying to position itself to take advantage of the 22% to 35% postage discounts the U.S. Postal Service has offered.
Under a Negotiated Service Agreement with USPS, Valassis can target durable and semi-durable goods advertisers with retail locations in at least 30 states for the new weekend package. If it can produce an additional 1 million mail pieces for USPS in a year, it can earn the postage discounts in the form of a rebate. The degree of discount depends upon the mail sortation level entered at USPS entry post offices and sectional centers. The rebate would be provided at the conclusion of a year after the additional mail volume is measured.
The Negotiated Service Agreement that provides the incentive for Valassis to roll out Red Plum Spree as an alternative to newspaper distribution is the subject of litigation between National Newspaper Association and the Postal Regulatory Commission. NNA contested the proposed agreement before the commission. When the PRC ruled that the agreement was permitted under the law, NNA joined a lawsuit at the U.S. Court of Appeals that was initiated by NAA. It, too, opposes the agreement. A decision from the court is expected mid-2013.

For newspaper stocks, 2012 was a surprisingly good year
Total revenues are not yet headed in the right direction, but investors still liked what they saw in the newspaper industry last year and bid up share prices accordingly.
Six of eight publicly traded companies showed gains for 2012; four of those were up 30% or more. The two companies that lost ground — Washington Post and A.H. Belo — were down just 3.1% and 2.1%, respectively.
Lee showed the biggest percentage gain, up 62.9%, followed by McClatchy (36.8%), E.W. Scripps (35%) and Gannett (34.7%).

The newsonomics of 2013 wizardry: Tribune, Buffett, Murdoch, Paton, Bloomberg, and more
It takes at least three special qualities to be in — much less to enter — the newspaper business these days. We can borrow them from L. Frank Baum: heart, courage, and smarts. 2012 marked unprecedented change in the top leadership and ownership at American dailies.
The end of the year is a good stopping point to consider the most influential captains of this industry. Who will prove lionhearted or chicken-hearted? Who, looking into the deepening abyss of advertising loss, can maintain fortitude? Who has the intel, or is acquiring it, to navigate a new course?
In the spirit of digital media's forward-looking nature, we'd like to look ahead to some the most important trends that we see developing in local digital media for 2013. Here are 10 things to watch from technology to revenue to journalism for the coming year.
1. Video will be critical. Newspaper sites are taking the fight to their TV competitors in the growing digital video space.

10 local digital media trends for 2013
By Michael Depp and Eric J. Smith, NetNewsCheck
In the spirit of digital media's forward-looking nature, we'd like to look ahead to some the most important trends that we see developing in local digital media for 2013. Here are 10 things to watch from technology to revenue to journalism for the coming year.
1. Video will be critical.
2. Local media companies will further diversify their digital revenue streams.
3. Tablets will accelerate digital media's evolution.
4. Responsive design will be the new normal.
5. More paywalls are coming.
6. Geolocation and geofencing will fundamentally change mobile advertising.
7. Hyperlocals and nonprofits will get revenue-smart or go away
8. Data journalism will be cool and everywhere.
9. New journalists will have multimedia skills or will not work.
10. Newsrooms will take a project-based approach to work.

Newspaper daily deals a mixed bag for publishers
As newspapers struggle to attract new readers and adopt new revenue streams, some are emulating daily deal sites like Groupon or LivingSocial and selling their own deals. Given the headwinds facing daily deals companies, have newspapers arrived too late to a losing game, or do their strong advertiser relationships give them a leg up on Silicon Valley?
The daily deals business—deeply discounted, time-limited coupons for services or products— heated up in late 2010 and early 2011. Local small businesses, previously overlooked by internet advertising giants, jumped on the concept to attract new customers in a way that is more measurable than traditional advertising. But the heyday appears to have passed. The two biggest daily deals companies, Groupon and LivingSocial, are experiencing rapidly declining financial prospects and smaller deal sites have been acquired or disappeared.
Newspapers copied the tech companies, figuring their local sales forces and strong advertiser relationships with merchants would give them an advantage.

AOL says one out of nine Patch sites profitable
AOL Inc. CEO Tim Armstrong said earlier this week that about 100 of the company's 900 Patch sites are now profitable, as the Internet media firm seeks to use its costly local online news network to help fuel an ongoing turnaround effort.
Patch is an ambitious effort to capitalize on demand for local online advertising by publishing news sites for small and mid-sized U.S. towns.
AOL has been investing an estimated $160 million annually in the collection of sites. During an earnings presentation in November, AOL executives stressed that they were seeking to run Patch more efficiently.
Patch has raised concerns among some AOL investors wary of the costs involved and the patience required as it struggles to reach profitability.
Late last year, activist investor Starboard Value launched a proxy fight for control of AOL, citing perceived shortcomings at the New York firm including losses for its display-advertising business and "money-losing growth initiatives like Patch."
AOL won the proxy battle in June, when a majority of shares voted at its annual meeting were cast to re-elect its existing board members.

Resolutions for newspaper mail
To improve delivery, cost-savings, and increase subscriptions
“Life is difficult,” as Scott Peck famously said in “The Road Less Traveled.”
For those of us who deal regularly with the U.S. Postal Service, that great truth stands out. And it gets more difficult as USPS faces declining revenue, high forced payments to the treasury and the resulting need to keep cutting costs and service.
Nevertheless, the National Newspaper Association, under astute leadership of Chief Executive Officer Tonda Rush, who doubles as chief Capitol Hill lobbyist, perseveres on your behalf. The board reaffirmed its position on maintaining six-day delivery, among other items, to fight for the interest of community newspapers in the mail at its October board meeting.
As postal chair, I want to suggest some New Year’s resolutions to remind you of protections NNA has in place to maintain your delivery, discounts, and circulation growth.

Don’t accept ‘I don’t like it’
He was not going to make this easy.
I was in a conference room with about a half-dozen editors and staffers. We had recently begun a redesign of their newspaper and I was showing them a first set of mockups.
As I was talking them through some of the initial ideas, the editor interrupted, sniffed and said: “I don’t like it.” There was a collective rolling of the eyes from others in the room, as if they had all known this was coming.
“Does that mean,” I asked, “you don’t like certain elements...or you don’t like any of it?”
“The whole thing,” he shot back. “I don’t like any of it.”
“Oh. Just what is it about what you’re seeing that you don’t like?” 
“I just don’t like it. And I thought you said during your first visit that we have to like what you’re doing—that it’s our newspaper and you have to satisfy us.”


Jan. 11: Weekly Publishers' Roundtable, SCPA Offices, Columbia

Jan. 15: Webinar: Everything You Need To Know About Publishing To Mobile

Jan. 16: Webinar: Classified Outbound Calling, Revenue That Sticks!

Jan. 16: Webinar: Newsroom of the Future

Jan. 17: Ad Basics, SCPA Offices, Columbia

Jan. 18: SCPA Foundation Internship and Scholarship application deadline

Jan. 18: Webinar: Performing Effective Advertiser Workshops for Big Revenue Gains

Jan. 22: Webinar: 13 Database Marketing Sales Ideas for '13

Jan. 24: Webinar: In Cyberspace No One Can Hear You Scream: Trademarks, Copyrights and the Internet

Jan. 30: Webinar: Positioning Your Advertising Department for Effective Successful Digital + Print Selling

Jan. 31: Webinar: What Local Advertisers Really Need From Newspapers

Feb. 14: Ed Henninger workshop on updating your newspaper's design, SCPA Offices, Columbia

Feb. 22: Webinar: Improve Sales Performance by 30% in the next 30 days

March 22-24, 2013:
SCPA Annual Meeting and Awards Presentation, The Westin Poinsett Hotel, Greenville