Being a watchdog can make a difference... ruff, ruff
How important is an aggressive local newspaper to good government?
The answer is vital.
To wit:  In the town of Belton, the public was being shut out of the recent vote counting of paper ballots for city elections.
Elaine Ellison-Rider, co-publisher and editor of The News-Chronicle, didn’t think that was right and challenged the secret counting of the ballots and submitted an official protest.
It worked.  The Belton Election Commission plans to count the votes in public after the upcoming runoff on Feb. 21.
SCPA Attorney Jay Bender pointed out that Section 7-13-1110 of the S.C. Code of Laws make it very clear:
“At the close of the election the managers and clerk shall immediately proceed publicly to open the ballot boxes and count the ballots therein and shall continue such count without adjournment or interruption, until it is completed.”
Keeping the public out of the count in Belton was a violation of the law.
This is just one example of many showing how a newspaper can make a difference in local government.
In many communities, local newspapers are the lone watchdog that can keep public officials mindful that they are indeed “public” officials.
If you have a similar story, please share it with me.

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We think SCPA editors are aware of how the News Exchange works.  But one editor called recently to ask if he could run an op-ed piece and was it free.  I know he isn’t the only one asking these questions.
The answer to both questions is “yes.”  
So if you haven’t looked at our exchange site, please do so and please use the material you think your readers would like.  It is there for you, including a great new food writer, a NASCAR column, editorial cartoons and regular op-eds by Phil Noble.

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A worrisome bill has been introduced in the House that would give police agencies legal permission to withhold just about anything, including incident reports, video tapes and other information.  The bill is H. 4740 and I encourage you to speak to your house members telling him or her the impact of the bill on the public’s oversight of police in South Carolina.  Here is a link to some great editorials opposing the bill.

SCPA offers mobile site for news and FOI
You can now read SCPA industry news, get FOIA information and keep up with Press Association events on your smartphone or tablet.
No app is needed, just go to our website. Your smartphone will automatically detect that you are accessing the site from a device and give you the mobile version.
“With some advice and help from tech-guru Kevin Slimp and from Tom Priddy of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal, Jen [Madden] was able to get this new system up and running in short order,” said Bill Rogers, SCPA executive director.
Rogers said SCPA has been working with an outside provider since last spring on developing iPhone and android apps and they have never really worked well.

“This seems to do everything we want at a very reasonable cost, and it gives us total control of adding and managing the mobile content,” Rogers said.
"The software we used is called Mofuse and it took less than two hours to get our mobile site up and running," Madden said. "I think this provider would be a great solution for newspapers looking at an affordable and easy way to get a mobile site."
Mobile users can save the SCPA web app to their device by saving the site as a bookmark.
On an iPhone, if you have the iPhone popup enabled, you can say "yes" as soon as you are asked if you'd like to save the site as a web app to to your iPhone's homescreen.
If you're on a smartphone and want to look at the traditional website, simply click the "Desktop" link at the bottom of the mobile site.
"For reporters, the FOIA resources will be especially helpful. We've got the full text of the law, information on how to file an FOI request, a clickable phone and email link to the FOIA hotline and scripts for what to say when they close court or a meeting," Madden said. "We hope you will try it and give us your feedback.

Make your Annual Meeting hotel reservations today
Feb. 23 is the deadline! Don't delay in getting your room!
Next Thursday, Feb. 23, is the cut-off date to make your reservation at the Annual Meeting hotel. SCPA's group rate is $159 per night at the Tides on Folly Beach. After Feb. 23, the rate will increase significantly and the hotel is likely to sell out completely.

"We've had a few calls about troubles with online reservations and we are working with the Tides to get this resolved," said SCPA Executive Director Bill Rogers. "Rooms ARE still available at the hotel. If you have any trouble making your reservations online or by calling the Tides, call SCPA immediately."

Tips for a smooth registration:

  1. Make your reservations as soon as possible. Space is limited and this will help ensure that rooms are available.
  2. If your reservation is for no more than 5 rooms, the website is the most convenient way to reserve your rooms. Be sure to enter SCP in the Group Code box. If you do not use this group code, it is likely that the hotel website will show no rooms available for the weekend of our meeting... and if rooms are available they will be at a much higher rate than our group block. You can also call the Tides at (843) 588-6463 and mention you are a part of the SCPA meeting.
  3. If you need to book more than 5 rooms, we recommend that you book your rooms directly with the Director of Sales for Tides Folly Beach, Kathryn Hartle. Her direct number is (843) 588-6463.
  4. If you run into ANY problems or issues while making your reservations (or if you have any questions), please call SCPA at (803) 750-9561.

Also, we've gotten a handful of calls about having trouble extending the amount of your stay past the Annual Meeting dates. The Tides will honor our discounted rate of $159 per night for the days directly before and after the meeting. If you have any trouble with this, or if the Tides quotes you a higher rate, call SCPA.

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Also, don't forget that tomorrow, Feb. 17, is the deadline to submit PDFs of your newspaper's winning entries. If you need a link to upload your files, just let us know!

Editor of The Journal in Seneca

Brett was born, raised and formally educated in Michigan. He says the best education, of course, has been found in every newsroom in which he has worked.
Brett says he has wanted to be a newsman since age 15. He earned a BA in journalism from Michigan State University and has worked for nearly 40 years in the business.
He's been married to his wife, Maureen, for 40 years. They have two sons and two daughters-in-law ... all proud Spartans. Brett and Maureen have four grandchildren (a.k.a., future Spartans).
Brett started his newspaper career as a beat reporter at a weekly. He eventually became editor, general manager and publisher of that newspaper, which became a twice weekly during his tenure. He worked for a few years as an editor and writer for the Catholic press before accepting the job as managing editor of The Journal in Seneca.
Brett plans to retire from The Journal at the end of June.
   "I have thoroughly enjoyed being involved in community journalism, where the thrill of a good story comes from the reaction of a community that values and feels some degree of ownership of the paper itself," Brett said. "The best part of the job has been and will, hopefully, always be, the telling of a good story that your community needs to read."
Brett said his stand-out moments include being chosen by his hometown as its Citizen of the Year in 1996 and by being selected to serve as president of the Michigan Press Association Board of Directors in 2001.
On a professional level, Brett is proudest to have mentored many young writers who have gone on to become award-winning journalists.
" I think there will always be a need for skilled reporters and writers to find and report stories their readers need and want. I don’t believe the written word will ever be lost and that people will always want to be part of an informed community.
"How we convey those stories may change but our mission to deliver clear, concise, truthful and relevant information should become clearer to us with every passing blog," he said.
Brett said that although his experiences with SCPA have been limited, he's been impressed with the responsiveness of the staff.
"Certainly, the legal hotline is increasingly important as old legal issues are only exaggerated by the digital world and the 24-hour news cycle," he added.
In his retirement, Brett plans to do some writing, and he says he and his wife are looking forward to visiting their children and grandchildren, as well as traveling.
"I hope to play more golf, which wouldn’t be hard since I play very little now, and read some of the 200 books I’ve bought and never read."

The S.C. Arts Commission Board has named nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist Robert Ariail, of Camden, among the six recipients of the 2012 Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Governor's Award for the Arts, the highest honor the state presents in the arts.
From 1984 to 2009, Ariail wielded pen and ink to capture the mood and viewpoint of the day as the editorial cartoonist for The State newspaper. His art and his satire continue to be available to readers through his work at the Spartanburg Herald-Journal and in more than 600 newspapers across the nation. Arial has also published three collections of his cartoons.
A two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, Arial was the first American to win the prestigious United Nations Ranan Lurie Political Cartoon Award, triumphing over a field of more than 1,500 cartoonists from around the world in 2009.

Mike McCombs has joined The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette as sports editor. McCombs worked for the Gazette in the late '90s as a sports copy editor and reporter. He has spent the past 13 years on the sports staff at the Spartanburg Herald-Journal. McCombs is a 1997 graduate of Clemson University, where he was sports editor and news editor at The Tiger, the student newspaper.

Beginning in March, the Georgetown Times will no longer publish a Monday issue of the newspaper. They will continue to publish Wednesday and Friday editions.

USC asks alums to mentor students
The University of South Carolina is asking alums to step up and mentor a student.  The USC Alumni Society will hold its Spring Mentor Match night on Wednesday, Feb. 29, from 6-8 p.m. in the Russell House Room 205.
The event format models speed networking, where alumni and students rotate every few minutes until everyone has had a chance to meet and talk. It's a really fun way for everyone to network. At the end of the event, participants rate their top choices and then our alumni volunteers match all students and mentors.  
If you are interested, please contact Chrysti Shain at or by calling (803) 445-4905.

Orangeburg newspaper carrier aids injuredsubscriber
By Gene Zaleski, The Times and Democrat
Patricia Gilyard, who was delivering newspapers for The Times and Democrat, came to the aid of a 91-year-old Orangeburg woman who had fallen at her home and had been lying helpless on the floor for about 10 hours. Gilyard heard the woman's screams as she was delivering her newspaper.
"Help! Help me!"
Times and Democrat newspaper carrier Patricia Gilyard had just dropped off last Saturday morning's edition at an Orangeburg residence when the cry for help startled her.
"I did not know where it was coming from," Gilyard said.
But she knew the voice was coming from the direction of the subscriber's carport, the same location where she had just tossed a copy of the newspaper.
Gilyard said when she walked inside the carport, she found 91-year-old Dorothy "Dot" Way lying on the floor in obvious distress and pain.
"I did not see her body because the car was hiding her body," Gilyard said. "I called 911, I got her a pillow to put her head on and a blanket and waited for the ambulance to arrive."
With her 12-year training in nursing at The Oaks and at Lexington's Extended Care, Gilyard knew time was of the essence. Way had been lying on the floor for about 10 hours.
Way had suffered a broken shoulder and hypothermia.
Doctors confirmed Gilyard's fears. If Way had not been found within a couple of hours, she might not have survived.

Interview: Tom Curley, Associated Press chief, on driving news faster
When he was a cub reporter in the 1960s Tom Curley estimates the news cycle -- defined as the "period of time when all the people interested in a story had access to it" -- was 12 hours. Times have changed.
"I would say until about 11 September 2001 it was three hours," says Curley, outgoing president and chief executive of the Associated Press. "Now it's 30 minutes. You might say if you are a certain age -- with Twitter and Facebook and all that type of stuff -- it's three minutes."
No wonder the BBC is telling its journalists to inform their editors of breaking news before they put it on Twitter. "If we can win by two minutes, on just about every story we can charge a premium," says Curley. "Driving faster and faster is what we are still focused on. That hasn't changed." But much else has altered in the course of Curley's nine years in charge of what claims to be the world's largest news agency.
Credited with modernising AP -- he moved it out of its expensive and stuffy Rockefeller Center building to the west side of Manhattan -- Curley will also be remembered for going toe-to-toe with Google, a dispute that saw AP stories (briefly) disappear from Google News.