|FOI reform bill before House subcommittee today
A bill strengthening the state's FOIA is to go before a House subcommittee this morning.
The bill, by Rep. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken, is a revision of a similar bill that passed the House last year and died in the Senate as the session ended.
The bill, H. 3163, proposes reducing the response time for replying to an FOI request to seven calendar days. The current requirement is 15 working days. It also requires records to be turned over for copying or inspection in no more than 30 days. Extra time would be allowed for records more than two years old.
Taylor's bill also says public bodies may not charge for staff time associated with gathering or reproducing records. Copying costs may not exceed the prevailing commercial rate for producing copies.
An addition to the bill is a provision that allows citizens to apply for relief to a magistrate when an FOIA request is denied or not filled.
News Contest grows; winners to be posted online by Feb. 1
I've gotten tons of calls and emails this week asking me when will contest winners be announced. My answer -- as soon as they come back to us.
Last week, we shipped out more than 200 individual contests to the fine members of the MDDC Press Association (newspapers from Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C.). Today, about 20 more contests to members of the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. We haven't done a full mailed judging in several years, but we have a tight process in place to ensure that entries are shipped, judged and returned to us as efficiently and safely as possible.
I've asked the judges of all mailed contests to return the winners to us no later than Jan. 25. We'll post the winners on our website daily as they trickle in. I suspect we'll have most of the winners posted on our site by Feb. 1.
We're still doing an in-person photo judging, so I'm headed up to Annapolis next Thursday. Photo winners will be posted Monday, Jan. 28.
Remember, winners are posted for proofing purposes only and are not for release until March 23.
Winners should be proud as the competition in our contest grows in volume every year. While some state's Press Associations have seen a decrease in participation over the past several years, SCPA's contest entries have been up every year. This year, we saw a 3% increase from last year with almost 4,000 entries.
We'll have much more information in the coming weeks about the contest and Annual Meeting, but here are some key dates to put in your calendar:
- Feb. 15: Deadline to submit corrections for award plaques, presentations and the tabloid.
- Feb. 22: Deadline to submit PDFs of all writing and design contests. I'll send more information out about this to each paper directly.
- March 2: This is the cut-off date to reserve a room at the Westin Poinsett in Greenville at our group rate of $139 per night. You might recall that last year we ran out of rooms in our block well before the cut-off date. Though we've upped the number of rooms we think we'll need, please don't delay. You can make your reservation on the website above or by calling the hotel directly.
- March 22-23: Annual Meeting and Awards Presentation -- Details about the meeting, a schedule of events, registration and sponsorship information will be available soon!
Henninger's design workshop set Feb. 14 in Columbia... you'll love it
Has your newspaper's design fallen behind the times? Are you too busy to update it? Is your newspaper's design sending the right message to readers and advertisers?
It's time to spend a day away from the office and let us train and motivate you to step up your newspaper's design to better serve your community! Newspaper design consultant Ed Henninger will conduct this full-day workshop on Feb. 14, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at SCPA Offices in Columbia. Ed has spent more the 50 years pursuing the perfection of newspaper editing and design.
We know how tough it is to deal with design when you are busting it to get the paper out every week, but we guarantee this time away from the office will be well-spent. In addition to newspaper planning, Ed will cover various design topics and will offer a new way of thinking about design that will make your work easier and faster. He'll also gear the workshop to respond to your newspaper's needs by reviewing your newspaper in advance and by asking for a list of items you want him to cover.
In only one session, you can learn more than they ever thought possible about news design and how to make it work better at their small newspaper. And, yes, we can teach old dogs new tricks!
For more than 20 years, Ed has been offering training that has left writers, editors and publishers craving more. Here's what they say:
- Here's what Bill Rogers has to say about Ed.
- Packed with information and suggestions -- we could have listened for days.
- I can't wait to share what I learned with my copy desk.
- Ed Henninger did not look down on us -- he relates well to people from papers our size.
Lunch will be provided. The cost is $45. Register today!
Editorial: AG should set FOI example
The Post and Courier
If South Carolina law, as Attorney General Alan Wilson contends, doesn’t allow the public information about a Saluda County sheriff’s misconduct in office, something is wrong with the law.
But one of the state’s top legal authorities on freedom of information, says it is actually Mr. Wilson who is wrong. The information should be available to the public.
Mr. Wilson’s excuse for not revealing information about SLED’s investigation of former Saluda County Sheriff Jason Booth is that the information was presented to the S.C. Grand Jury, which functions in private.
But Jay Bender, lawyer for the South Carolina Press Association, cites a S.C. Supreme Court decision that says material submitted to a grand jury is not secret forever. Once an indictment has occurred and the grand jury process is no longer in jeopardy, materials can be released to the defendant.
“If the defendant can get the material, the public can,” Mr. Bender tells us.
In light of this judgment the attorney general should reconsider his stance. The public has the right to know the details of the sheriff’s use of an inmate to do work at his home. He has already pleaded guilty and paid a $900 fine.
Former Atlantic Beach town manager guilty of assaulting resident seeking public records
By Amanda Kelley, The Sun News
A former Atlantic Beach town manager was found guilty in a Myrtle Beach courtroom of assault on a town resident.
Benny Webb, 54, of Sumter, was charged with third degree assault and battery in May following a SLED investigation conducted at the request of the Atlantic Beach police department.
Webb was charged for physically grabbing and threatening to harm Paul Curry, who was asking for public records on Jan. 31 at Town Hall. The incident was witnessed by others and recorded by Curry.
Webb was convicted by a jury on Thursday and received a sentence of 30 days imprisonment, or a $500 fine, said J. Scott Hucks, the assistant solicitor who prosecuted the case. He has until Jan. 24 to pay the fine.
Webb did not return calls seeking comment.
Curry said he had gone to Atlantic Beach Town Hall to request a copy of a contract, but was told the document was unavailable. He considered that a refusal of his request, and stepped aside to take notes before calling the police to report a violation of the FOIA.
“The next thing I know, Benny Webb comes out of his office and he’s got his hands on me,” he said. Curry said Webb called him a racist twice, and then threatened to beat him up.
“He said, ‘If I ever see you outside of Horry County, I’m going to take care of you,’” Curry said.
An Atlantic Beach police officer witnessed the last half of the incident, Curry said, and the officer told Curry to leave the property. According to Curry, Webb followed him outside before he left the property on the advice of Horry County authorities.
Editorial: No school secrets allowed
The Post and Courier
School funding discussions that are designed to avoid the requirements of the state FOIA will erode confidence in the way the district spends school money — or to put it another way, the public’s money.
In November, the Charleston County School Board found itself in violation of the state’s freedom of information law when six members turned up for a tour of the renovated campus of the former Rivers Middle School. School officials explained that they didn’t expect a majority of the board to attend, thereby triggering the FOIA requirement for public notification of board meetings.
An accident? That’s how a district spokesman explained it.
But an item in a recent district notice emailed to school board members suggests that the practice may be more common than imagined. Under the heading of “Small Group Meeting” it states:
“A meeting is scheduled at the Town of Mount Pleasant at 9 a.m. on January 31st to discuss school funding. Mr. [Michael] Bobby is extending an invitation to Mr. [John] Barter and three other Board members to attend. ... Since no public notice will be done for this meeting, only four board members are allowed to attend. Another meeting will be scheduled if others are interested in this topic.”
If five members were in attendance, it would constitute a quorum, requiring public notice to be given.
|North Augusta Star editor retires
Phyllis Britt, longtime staffer of The Star in North Augusta, has retired.
She has been with The Star since 1986, serving since 1999 as the editor.
She was born in Smithfield, N.C.
Her degree was in religion with a minor in math and Latin, and she followed that up with graduate studies at Wake Forest University, where she met her future husband and got a degree in religion.
Britt has been the recipient of several SCPA awards.
Evening Post names Cartledge president of newspaper shared services division
The Evening Post Publishing Company in Charleston, has named Ron Cartledge as president of its Newspaper Shared Services Division. Cartledge joined the company in March of last year as the vice president of the Shared Services Division and is responsible for the printing, packaging, and all production-related functions associated with the EPPC newspaper operations in Charleston, Aiken and Salisbury. Cartledge most recently was the production director for the Fayetteville Publishing Company.
Hartley named vice president of consumer revenue for Morris Publishing Group
Jeff Hartley, vice president of circulation for Morris Publishing Group, LLC has been promoted to vice president of consumer revenue. This new role will focus on increasing value to consumers, both on digital and print platforms and increasing consumer revenue. Hartley is a 33-year newspaper and media veteran having served as circulation director of The Augusta Chronicle, circulation manager of The Greenville News, sales and marketing manager of The Tallahassee Democrat along with other sales and marketing/operations executive positions at The Jackson Sun, The Times (Gainesville, Ga.) and The Pensacola News Journal. Hartley is a member of the NAA/ABC Circulation Subcommittee and editor of the recent publication, "NAA/ABC Guide to U.S. Newspaper Digital Editions." He is also the founder of www.digitalfirstnewspapers.com, which focuses on digital, social and mobile developments and consumer product strategies.
Be ready for postal bar code changes
By Stanley Swartz, NNA
An impending change by the U.S. Postal Service from its PostNet bar code to the new Intelligent Mail bar code has some newspaper owners concerned.
Brad Hill, one of the NNA’s representatives on the Mailers Technical Advisory Committee, said the change will affect every community newspaper during a recent webinar on the topic.
Hill has been with mail software company Interlink for 10 years and will make a presentation at HSPA’s upcoming Annual Meeting Feb. 8.
He noted that the postal bar code helps newspaper mailers claim automation discounts.
The Intelligent Mail bar code, or IMb, is not the same thing as the retail bar code some newspapers utilize so their papers can be sold in stores, he said. Those Universal Product Codes are available through the Uniform Code Council.
Automation discounts lower the postage rate for a piece of mail. Bar codes are used so mail can run on automated flat-sorting equipment. And even though a newspaper might not actually be put on an automated sorting machine, the newspaper can still claim the discount, Hill said.
The Postal Service is switching to the newer bar code because it contains more information and will allow mail to be tracked, with an end-goal of improving delivery times, he said.
The old PostNet bar code has only two bar heights and will be retired by the Postal Service.
The newer IMb has four bar heights and can hold more information. It will go into effect Jan. 28.
If newspapers want to continue to claim automation discounts, they must switch to the new IMb, Hill said.
The Postal Service wants to use IMb for end-to-end tracking for measuring and improving service standards.
The new bar code will also provide linkage to the Postal Service’ address-change service.
Patch aims for profitability, shifts platforms
Patch hopes that all 903 of its hyperlocal news sites will be profitable by the end of 2013, and that many of them will have migrated to a less-newsy, more community-based platform, company president Warren Webster said earlier this week.
“We went into 2012 having built this enormous organization,” Webster said, and “now we’ve built this machine; this machine has to work.” About 100 sites are profitable, mostly the oldest ones, he said, news that has been reported elsewhere. But Patch’s unique visitors are up 30 percent in the past year, he said, and “it does take time to win the hearts and minds not only of these communities but also the small-business owners.”
Patch, founded in 2007, has long gotten negative coverage, with critics alleging that its reporters are overworked and that, while its PR line emphasizes local news, internally the company prefers clickbait-style content. The criticism has continued with regard to Patch’s effort to turn a profit, Webster said, including disparaging coverage of the company’s decision to merge sites and cut freelance budgets.
Whether or not Patch editors are overworked, Webster said the type of work that they do will evolve in the coming year. Five towns in Long Island have been testing a new platform that shifts the site’s focus from publishing outlet—for both professional reporting and unpaid, HuffPost-style community bloggers—to more of a “community hub.”
There will be “as much and more quality original content,” Webster said, though “content” will mean not only reported stories or but also community conversations as encouraged by the new platform. Running a community hub, Webster said, is “definitely going to be a big part of what our editors do.”
The contest strategy that’s generating millions for GateHouse
In the first 10 months of 2012, GateHouse Media generated more than $2.7 million in contest revenue across its newspapers, and expects to exceed $3 million by the end of the year. In addition to the company’s solid financial performance, GateHouse also increased its email database by 46% through contests, which has helped drive revenue through its deals program and other initiatives. Contests have also brought substantial audience growth for GateHouse. For example, its Cutest Babies contest alone led to a 20% increase in monthly traffic across the entire group.
GateHouse’s success can be attributed to its group-wide contesting strategy, which consists of creating turnkey contest programs that can be easily implemented across all its properties.
GateHouse’s example is both inspiring and instructional for newspaper groups, but some of the lessons here can also be applied by individual properties. Here are five key takeaways from GateHouse’s 2012 contesting results that can be applied to your program in 2013.
1. Make group contests easy for individual newspapers to execute
2. Survey your market leaders
3. Planning is incredibly important
4. Create Category-Focused Packages for Advertisers
5. Promote, Promote, Promote.
|School safety and gun control becoming major stories
As this is written in mid-December, there is much concern over school safety and much talk about gun control, and that is likely to continue as students return to school and the new Congress convenes. The Rural Blog offers help for covering these and other issues that have a local impact or stir local concern.
One of our items, at bit.ly/Zhx4WL, looked at the development of school safety standards and linked to the National Indicators of School Crime and Safety , a federal website that monitors the topic. Another item, mainly about The Newtown Bee's hometown coverage, linked to information and advice from Al Tompkins of The Poynter Institute about covering school safety and guns. It's at bit.ly/VOIWaF.
Some of our most favorite type of items are those that link to new, national databases that can spark and inform fresh, local reporting. Louise Story of The New York Times spent several months developing a database of state and local incentives for economic development, which overall appear to be a losing proposition. Our item is at bit.ly/ZMkWvY.
Does your area have a prison that was hailed as a job creator but is now cut back or closed? There are quite a few, and they are pretty hard to use for some other purpose, The Atlantic reported, and we noted at bit.ly/VQ7uQW . And at some prisons still open, overcrowding and staff shortages are raising safety concerns: bit.ly/12okUKj.
The Four P's of marketing
Marketing is not a one-note tune. In fact, most marketing textbooks feature meticulous descriptions of the Four P's of marketing – four elements which work together in the creation of a successful campaign. If any one of the four is lacking, failure is a likely possibility.
Media sales people should have a fundamental understanding of these Four P's. Here's a quick look:
Product: This represents the product or service offered to consumers. If the product is something that the public would like to own, there is a ready-made marketplace.
I must mention that there is a big difference between a want and a need. Just because someone needs a product or service doesn't mean that he or she will want to buy it. And just because that person needs a particular product doesn't mean that any brand in that category will do.