SCPA website offers archive of Bender's legal columns
SCPA's website has a new feature that we think will be beneficial to newspaper editors, reporters and ad directors.
We have created an online archive of the legal columns and Q&As written by SCPA Attorneys Jay Bender and Carmen Maye.
The archive dates back to 2000 and are indexed by topic, ranging from advertising and business topics to open government and issues dealing with the First Amendment. New columns will continue to be added.
"We think this is a great way to look back and review important legal issues including libel, access and copyright," said SCPA Executive Director Bill Rogers.
The legal columns and Q&A's can be found here. You must be an SCPA member to access these materials. If you do not have your Member's Only username and password, email Jarad Greene and he will provide it.
If you haven't visited the Member's Only section of our site, we encourage you to do so. In addition to contact information for our Libel/FOI
Hotline, we have a training video featuring Bender on the legal issues frequently faced in newsrooms across South Carolina. This video is a great primer and refresher on S.C. laws impacting your newspaper. There are also presentations on libel laws and a journalist's guide to using the FOIA. Advertising regulations and guidelines and various forms you might need can be found on the Member's Only site.
If you are looking for another resource that you can't find, email us what you need and we'll get it to you.
SCPA sends letters to S.C. congressional delegation in support of federal shield law
Earlier this week, SCPA Executive Director Bill Rogers sent letters to South Carolina's congressional delegation asking them to co-sponsor the Free Flow of Information Act (H.R. 1962 / S. 987 ) which would protect the public's right to know by protecting the identities of journalists' confidential sources.
"The only check on government power is a free and independent press," Rogers said. "We've urged our state's leaders to demonstrate their support for this fundamental American value by adding their names as co-sponsors of the Free Flow of Information Act."
If you'd like to send your own letter to our Senators or your representative, let us know. We'd be happy to provide their contact info.
More on the shield law and recent scandals involving the free flow of information:
Transformation Tour training series features leading digital news innovators
The American Press Institute and The Poynter Institute are putting on a series of workshops that delve into the strategies needed to engage audiences in new ways.
Mobile Digital Publishing - June 17,
The Boston Globe
Explore content, revenue and branding opportunities for developing mobile products, including advertising and paid-content strategies, loyalty programs, special editions, geo-tagging and user expectations.
Participants will learn how to:
- Understand mobile audiences and the marketplace
- Assess strategies for mobile Web and native application product planning
- Develop mobile revenue and sales channels
Growing Audiences - July 15, The Arizona Republic,
Learn about content marketing that works, social-media strategies that build brand, and tactics to increase traffic and attract young audiences.
Participants will learn how to:
- Go beyond demographics to gain audience insights on today's news consumers
- Build a solid strategic audience-growth plan that includes content, marketing and sales
- Leverage every platform to target your audiences' consumer behaviors
- Use new metrics to measure and understand success in a changing marketplace
For more information, contact Mary Peskin at (571) 366-1122.
Editor, Free Times
What do you like best about your job?
Being editor of Free Times gives me more of an opportunity to learn about the community I live in than I can imagine having in any other job. It also gives me the opportunity to have an impact on the community.
What is your proudest moment from your career in the newspaper industry?
Our reporters have done a lot of work I am proud of over the years. Overall, though, I am very proud that Free Times has moved from being a paper that, as a free weekly, was once ineligible for membership in the South Carolina Press Association to one that is represented on the board and is consistently winning many awards, including weekly Journalist of the Year for the past two years.
How do you view the future of the newspaper industry?
I don't think anyone knows the future of the newspaper industry. In general, though, we are seeing a lot of fragmentation. The landscape favors small, nimble organizations.
What's your favorite SCPA member service?
As an editor, I appreciate having director Bill Rogers and attorney Jay Bender available as resources. Jay is an invaluable resource when you're working on a hot story and you need another set of eyes to help you make sure you've covered all the bases.
Any big plans coming up?
My family is planning a trip to Alaska next year.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career and why?
Amy Singmaster founded Free Times in 1987. If she hadn't given me the opportunity to work at her paper, I would not be in this industry. She taught me many things, one of which is to always listen to everyone in the organization, and another is to always keep your ego in check.
What are some area attractions/restaurants in your community visitors shouldn't miss?
No one should visit Columbia without going to Drip Coffee. If you're staying a few days, make sure to visit Riverbanks Zoo, Congaree National Park and the Columbia Museum of Art.
What is something most people don't know about you?
I'm much more competitive than I appear to be on the surface, especially when it comes to ping-pong.
If you could change one thing about the newspaper industry, what would it be?
The pay scale.
What do you like to do outside of work?
Spend time with my family, go to concerts and, when I can muster the energy, write music.
Know someone interesting that you'd like to see featured here? Let us know!
Marlboro board gets schooled on FOIA, again
By Ellen Meder, Morning News
BENNETTSVILLE — Along with a legislative update and a first peek at the budget, the Marlboro County School Board once again got a lesson on, and had some debate about, the state’s open government laws at its monthly meeting earlier this week.
Following a heated back and forth at a May 20 called meeting, the board had some clarifying to do about the true meaning of FOIA and its stipulation that meeting agendas not be amended after published to the public. ...
To clarify the ongoing FOIA issues pertaining to agenda changing and going into executive session, [a board member] asked SCPA Attorney Jay Bender to speak to the board.
However, since Bender’s name was deleted from the version of the agenda that was sent to the media, he spoke during the public comment period as to go against the message of his visit.
Bender provided a brief history and civics lesson for the board on the FOIA legislation that he helped draft and pushed for passage in 1974.
“It [the General Assembly] found that it’s vital in a democratic society that public business be conducted in an open and public manner,” Bender said. “And the General Assembly instructed that this law was to be applied in such a fashion as to make it possible for citizens to learn or for representatives to learn and report fully the activities of public bodies. Clearly a school district is a public body.”
He then noted that though the board might have had debate on the legality of the Marlboro EDGE vote at the previous meeting, the broader legal debate over changing agendas was settled a year ago.
Last summer the S.C. Supreme Court decided to uphold part of a Court of Appeals decision and side with an Anderson County citizen who sought to have a county council decision reversed because it was made without proper public notice.
In his presentation Bender explained that the reason no items can be added to an agenda after it is published is to ensure the members of the public can be present for business they deem important and so that public bodies cannot slip decisions by unnoticed by the people they serve. However, since board meetings often run long, items may be deleted since removing an item does not deprive anyone of the opportunity to hear a particular discussion.
“It is illegal to amend an agenda,” Bender said starkly. “it doesn’t make any difference whether the item had been tabled previously. If it is not on the agenda for your next meeting you cannot have it.”
He also informed the board that violating FOIA can carry criminal penalties, though it has only been prosecuted once, and unsuccessfully at that.
“As I look through the minutes of your previous meetings, it seems to me that you have had a habit of amending the agenda. You shouldn’t do it after tonight after I’ve brought it to your attention,” Bender said. “You now know that amending your agenda is illegal, so don’t do it. I don’t know that anyone would criminally prosecute you, that’s not the reason it’s in there. I think the important thing is to understand that as representatives of the public in a democracy it’s in your interest and the interest of the public to comply so people know what you’re doing.”
Bender also gave each board member a copy of “The Public Official's Guide to Compliance with the Freedom of Information Act” available through the S.C. Press Association, which includes the full wording of the statute as well as the “English language translation.”
Reporter recognized for contributions to South Carolina
By Felicia Kitzmiller, Herald-Journal
A veteran newsman said he was awed when the South Carolina Senate, a body he covered for more than two decades, welcomed him home to the statehouse during session earlier this week.
Sen. Harvey Peeler, R-Gaffney, and the Union County delegation presented Ralph Greer of Union with a resolution passed by the House and the Senate recognizing his contributions to the state and the profession of journalism.
“He epitomizes what a news reporter should be,” Peeler said. “He has a way of bringing out the personality of the person he is interviewing, politicians, the man on the street, everyone. So many reporters today, it feels like they are just passing through; not Ralph.”
When he arrived in the statehouse for Tuesday’s presentation, Greer slipped comfortably into the ebb and flow of a busy day on the floor of the Legislature. Greer worked at the Herald-Journal from 1960 to 1995 and covered state government from 1969 to 1991. He also covered Union County and Cherokee County. ...
After he retired from the Herald-Journal, Greer started his own publishing company and started writing for the Union County News when the weekly paper started in 2009.
Morning News editor headed to Francis Marion University
Tucker Mitchell, regional editor of the Morning News and its affiliated properties in the Pee Dee, is leaving that position for a post at Francis Marion University.
Mitchell, who's led the Morning News editorial team since the fall of 2010, will become the executive director for public affairs at FMU. The position is a new one, created during a recent re-organization of the college's senior management structure by FMU President Dr. L. Fred Carter. Mitchell will direct university communications and oversee university publications.
Mitchell will begin his work July 1 at FMU.
Mitchell is a North Carolina native who's spent more than 30 years in the newspaper industry. Prior to coming to Florence and the Morning News, he owned operated a pair of weekly suburban papers near Charlotte, N.C.
Mark Blum, regional publisher of the Morning News, said that the Morning News is a better paper today because of Mitchell's contributions, and it will be difficult to find a comparable replacement. A search for his replacement has already begun.
T&D's region editor celebrates 47 years in the newspaper industry
Carol Barker, The Times and Democrat's region editor, recently celebrated 47 years in the newspaper industry.
Barker, 64, has worked at the Orangeburg daily for the past 17 years.
She also served as editor of The Advertizer-Herald in Bamberg for 13 years.
In a wonderful column she wrote to celebrate the milestone, Barker wrote:
"At age 64, I realize I don't have many years left in the workforce. I love the newspaper business and believe, even as newspapers undergo a dramatic transformation in this digital age, that people will still be reading them at the breakfast table every morning and relying on them for reliable news and advertising for a long, long, long time to come."
What’s your digital strategy?
By Alan D. Mutter, Newsosaur
More often than you would think, an editor or publisher will contact me to ask, “What should my digital strategy be?”
The inquiry is alarming on a number of levels. First, because it has taken nearly two decades after the commercial arrival of the Internet for many newspaper executives to seriously tackle the seminal existential question facing their business. Second, because this question already has been addressed actively for years by businessmen ranging from the brass at Walmart to the butt-crack plumber under your kitchen sink. Third, because the question presumes there is a simplistic, one-size-fits-all answer that, once revealed, will serve for all time.
Here’s my Yoda-like response:
The answer is there is no single answer. There are many answers. It will take many questions to find the right answers for you. And the answers for today will be challenged over time by the new questions necessary to discover the answers for tomorrow.
Chicago Sun-Times lays off its photo staff
By Robert Channick, Tribune
The Chicago Sun-Times has laid off its entire photography staff, and plans to use freelance photographers and reporters to shoot photos and video going forward, the newspaper said.
A total of 28 full-time staffers received the news last week at a meeting held at the Sun-Times offices in Chicago, according to sources familiar with the situation. The layoffs are effective immediately.
The newspaper released a statement suggesting the move reflected the increasing importance of video in news reporting:
"The Sun-Times business is changing rapidly and our audiences are consistently seeking more video content with their news. We have made great progress in meeting this demand and are focused on bolstering our reporting capabilities with video and other multimedia elements. The Chicago Sun-Times continues to evolve with our digitally savvy customers, and as a result, we have had to restructure the way we manage multimedia, including photography, across the network."
The company is also preparing to supplement its freelance staff with reporters to shoot more video and photos, according to sources.
Media and the Military Workshop
set Sept. 22-27; application deadline is July 1
Interested in an intensive week-long program designed to help reporters and editors learn more about covering the military?
The University of Kansas School of Journalism and the U.S. Army are putting on an intensive week-long program that will give journalists an introduction to military
structure, function, strategy, tactics and training.
This training will be held Sept. 22-27 at the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas.
The program pays for journalists' lodging, meals and airfare.
Journalists who attend the workshop should be early to mid-career reporters or editors working near military bases, beat reporters covering the military, or journalists who have an interest in covering military issues. It is designed for journalists who have little or no background covering the military and for journalists with no active-duty military experience.
The workshop provides an intense learning experience for journalists. Members of the press will embed with Army Majors going through command training and will live a day in the life of a ground
soldier preparing for duty. Journalists will attend workshops with senior general officers and have the opportunity to interview officers who will be stationed at military bases in the reporters' hometowns.
To apply, please contact Dr. Barbara Barnett by July 1.
New newsrooms may seem small, but they can pack a punch
By Kate Galbraith, Nieman Reports
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” These words, from the anthropologist Margaret Mead, should be front and center for every media organization. Changing the world by providing information—that is what we are about.
Mead was right in another way, too. Change can start small.
I have spent the past three years at The Texas Tribune, an online nonprofit publication based in Austin. By the usual standards of newsrooms, we’re tiny. Our team includes just over a dozen reporters, plus several editors. And yet we’ve gotten a lot done. We’ve uncovered forced fights at a Houston-area residential treatment center for foster children, and we’ve created a database—plus an ongoing series of articles—on the conflicts of interest of elected Texas officials. We’ve won Murrow, Webby and Society of Professional Journalists awards.
In a small newsroom, we all chip in.
The No. 1 reason for optimism about the future of newspapers? Our audiences
Dallas Morning News encourages innovation by funding employee ideas
By Dan Johnson, INMA
was astounded this past week to receive the March 31, 2013, AAM Snapshot (formerly Fas-Fax) report.
It wasn’t so much the incredible year-over-year gains in total circulation. In fact, as has been discussed and reported in other blogs and articles, it is really meaningless to make year-over-year comparisons due to new categories of digital and branded edition circulation.
No, what struck me (and this is what newspaper companies have been trying to drive home for years) were the incredible audiences that newspapers continue to command!
When I was director of sales and marketing at The Spokesman-Review, one of my favorite things to do was to use readership studies to create promotional ads that compared the reach and penetration of The Review to other media in the market.
We would brainstorm clever representations that would illustrate the number of TV spots or radio ads you would need to run to match the reach of the daily newspaper.
In an effort to encourage problem solving and innovations at every level of the organization, The Dallas Morning News initiated an “Innovative Idea Share” program that encourages employees to identify revenue-generating opportunities.
Employees are encouraged to share innovative ideas with management council members at the council’s quarterly meeting. If our ideas are approved — and they produce revenue for the company — the person initiating the idea can earn up to $25K in incentives, depending on how much revenue the idea generates.
This has been very popular internally at The Dallas Morning News and gives employees a voice and a platform to share ideas with the executive branch of the company.
Billionaire Buffett still bullish on newspapers
By Josh Funk, AP
Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is adding The Roanoke, Va., Times to its growing group of small and medium-sized newspapers.
Berkshire said last week it will acquire The Times from Landmark Media Enterprises on Friday. It will be Berkshire’s 30th daily newspaper.
Financial terms were not disclosed. Berkshire says The Roanoke Times has daily circulation of 76,000 and Sunday circulation of 90,000.
Buffett did not immediately respond to a message last week, but earlier this month he told shareholders that Berkshire should earn decent returns of about 10 percent on the newspapers because it is buying them at such cheap prices.
But he said newspaper earnings will keep declining, and the newspapers won’t make much difference to Berkshire’s overall profits because they are relatively small part of the conglomerate.
Ruth Ragsdale Sitton
Ruth Ragsdale Sitton, 91, of Easley, died May 25, after a brief illness.
Sitton attended Coker College for two years before transferring to the University of Georgia, where she earned a journalism degree in 1941. Selected as an outstanding journalism student, Sitton was invited to write articles for the Athens, Ga., daily newspaper, while she was still a student.
She served as a correspondent for the Greenville News-Piedmont in the '50s and as news editor for the Easley Progress newspaper. Later she taught journalism, history and English at Easley and Dacusville High Schools.
Mrs. Sitton also was a published poet.
Sitton's oldest daughter, Dottie Sitton Ashley of Mount Pleasant, served as the leading arts critic and features writer for The Post and Courier for 18 years, writing profiles on hundreds of outstanding citizens in the Charleston area.
How to fix a common ad design flaw
The Flaw: An advertiser is concerned, because her ad seems to blend in with the others on the page. She says, “There’s a lot of information in the ad, but it gets lost on the page.”
The Fix: The problem starts with her statement that “a lot of information” is a good thing. Like many advertisers, she thinks an ad should be noticed because it is loaded with information, but the opposite is true. A preponderance of information is usually synonymous with clutter. Cluttered ads get lost on the page.
Let’s look at five tools that can help an ad break through the clutter:
1. White space. An ad layout can be compared to a room in a house. Just because it’s possible to put a coffee table on top of a sofa doesn’t mean that’s a good idea. And just because you can overlap illustrations and copy blocks in an ad doesn’t mean that’s a smart tactic.
Just like a room should allow plenty of space to walk around the furniture, an ad should allow room for the reader’s eyes to navigate the elements.
A gift to the community
It's amazing what we can learn over the course of a career. So many people have taught me so much. And then, there are the many things I've learned by observing newspaper people at work.
In more than 45 years in newspapering, one of the most important things I've learned: Small newspapers are a gift. But the real gift is the people who work at those newspapers.
The folks who work at small newspapers live in the town. Many of them grew up there. They go to church there. They shop there. Their kids go to school there. They know who's who and who would-like-to-be-but-isn't.
You'll not find harder workers than those who work at small newspapers. They put in long hours and rarely (if ever) complain, they'll visit an advertiser before sunrise and they'll report on those high school football games that run into double-overtime...at an opponent's stadium 28 miles away.
June 6: Daily Editors Roundtable, SCPA Offices, Columbia
June 13: Ad Basics Workshop, SCPA Offices, Columbia
June 14: Daily Publishers Roundtable, SCPA Offices, Columbia
June 20: Basic and Advanced InDesign Workshop, SCPA Offices, Columbia
June 27: Webinar: Top Strategies and Tactics for Sales Success!
July 18: Basic and Advanced PhotoShop Workshop, SCPA Offices, Columbia
August 2: Ad Directors Roundtable, SCPA Offices, Columbia (More details coming soon!)
August 8: Weekly Editors Roundtable, SCPA Offices, Columbia
August 15: Basic and Advanced Adobe Illustrator Workshop, SCPA Offices, Columbia (More details coming soon!)
September 12: Ad Design Workshop, SCPA Offices, Columbia
Sept. 19: Advanced InDesign and PDF Workshop, SCPA Offices, Columbia