Gov. Haley’s office refusing to release ethics emails
By Stephen Largen | The Post and Courier
Gov. Nikki Haley’s administration is refusing to release correspondence related to an ongoing ethics inquiry, claiming attorney-client privilege extends not only to the governor but also the vast majority of her staff.
Jay Bender, an attorney for the S.C. Press Association and an expert on the state’s freedom of information law, said the move is an abuse of the law.
“It’s another instance where we have a public body overreaching to try to hide records that are part of the public record,” he said.
Haley championed her commitment to transparency during her successful 2010 campaign for governor, and since then her office has frequently claimed her administration is the most open in recent memory.
Under the S.C. Freedom of Information Act, The Post and Courier requested all records and correspondence from Haley’s office related to the S.C. House Ethics Committee and its investigation of the governor.
In general, such public records are valuable because they frequently provide insight into the policy-making process, reveal abuses and uncover information that may never otherwise see the light of day. ...
Bender said attorney-client privilege likely only applies to Haley, and strictly in situations where she intended to have confidential discussions with her attorneys and didn’t share the information with anybody else in her office.
He said the notion that the allegations represent a complaint against the office of the governor is absurd because the complaint addresses Haley’s work in the House.
“They are acting like people who have something to hide,” Bender said.
Police scanners changing to digital... be ready
Editor's note: Police radio communications have long been a necessity in every newsroom but the landscape is changing. Below is an article by David Greer of the Kentucky Press Association to let you know more about the situation.
We continue getting phone calls from journalists all around the state with questions about the nationwide conversion from conventional analog public safety communications (police, fire, EMS, etc.) to the more modern digital public safety systems. The conversion, which is at different stages from city to city, can be confusing, to say the least. We all know that listening to the scanner is a valuable tool for news gathering, but these days that tool is changing, or in some cases, going silent -- at least for a time.
In one city recently, local police, fire and EMS were converting to digital but when the local newspaper asked for the frequencies it should begin monitoring, authorities refused to divulge them. An open records request was made and the information finally handed over.
But such information is already public record at the federal level. All police, fire, EMS and other public safety radio systems in use all across the U.S. are licensed by the FCC. As such, the FCC website has a large database showing all public safety radio frequencies in use nationwide on its fcc.gov website. However, the FCC's website is not very user friendly and finding that info can be difficult.
Many editors and publishers are already familiar with and are using instead an Internet website called Radio Reference. Click on this link and it will take you to the South Carolina page of the nationwide database. Each town and city in the state is shown in a drop down box. Or you can click on your individual county and it displays the public safety frequencies in use in your county. Also available are frequencies used by various state agencies, the military and so on.
But with the conversion from analog FM transmissions to digital transmissions, just knowing a particular police department's radio frequencies won't guarantee you that you can decode their transmissions if they are digital.
|Electronic paid/requester subscriptions count on Statement of Ownership
A momentous decision from the U.S. Postal Service Product Classification department issued in May will help newspapers concerned about losing long-distance subscribers if they are forced into an electronic edition. The final rule will enable Periodical newspapers, whether Paid or Requester status, to take full advantage of electronic editions by counting them, with some restrictions, on the USPS Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation, PS Form 3526.
Newspapers may count electronic subscribers for USPS fiscal year 2011, starting Oct. 1, 2011, through Sept. 30, 2012. These subscribers may be reported on the Oct. 1, 2012, Statement of Ownership that many publishers use as verification of circulation rather than hiring outside auditing firms.
A new hard-copy form 3526 is under development, but the electronic form via PostalOne! would not be changed until 2013, so it will not be workable for this year's reporting. Only hard copy 3526s will be accepted.
The new rule, effective May 9, will permit newspapers to count electronic editions as paid subscriber copies provided at least 40 percent of the newspaper's full distribution consists of paid printed copies, including single sales, bulk sales, NIE, etc. Another 10 percent could be electronic to get to the 50 percent paid or requester level.
The new rule supplements existing rules that require more than 50 percent of a paid-circulation Periodical's total distribution to be paid for by subscribers -- or for free newspapers, 50 percent requested by recipients.
|Opinion: Senate flubbed on FOIA fix
Members of the Senate can offer any number of “reasons” they failed to improve the state’s Freedom of Information Act this session. But in the end, they failed their constituents.
The S.C. House of Representatives approved a bill that would make public information more accessible to the public. The Senate, on the other hand, stalled and made excuses, ultimately letting the proposal languish and die.
First, it was political gamesmanship by Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, who held it up in an effort to kill another bill that would give tax breaks to people with children in private schools. Eventually, Sen. Hutto removed his objection.
Then it was Sen. John Scott, D-Richland, who contended there hadn’t been enough discussion at the subcommittee level.
Presumably, part of the problem was a requirement that legislators’ email should be subject to the law. If so, that provision could have been removed from the larger bill and dealt with separately next year.
So a common-sense, straightforward bill to give the public more timely, affordable and thorough information from government officials died. Making those improvements will mean starting anew in the next session. It’s time wasted — just as the present FOIA bill allows public servants to waste the public’s time by taking too long to produce information.
The Legislature should commit to fix the FOIA next session. It isn’t about politics. It’s about openness and honesty.
The people of South Carolina deserve nothing less.
-- from The Post and Courier
Jasper schools official fights to be heard by his board
At recent Jasper County school board meetings, board member Randy Horton attempts to air concerns about possible wrong-doing by the district administration, but the chairman cuts him off and adjourns the meeting without a vote by the board.
Horton has tried repeatedly to get board members to address his concerns, but they won't vote to put his issues on the agenda, so he filed FOIA requests for some district records, but has been denied.
SCPA Attorney Jay Bender cites an S.C. Attorney General Office's opinion that an elected official is entitled to see all the records of the public body they govern in order to fulfill their obligations to their constituents.
Bender said Horton should be able to see the credit-card records, background checks and bonus checks.
"It's absurd that the administration is denying this board member access to records and that the superintendent is being backed up by a majority of the board," Bender said. "Even the most unenlightened public bodies understand that the people being elected to run the body are entitled to information."
Bender questioned the board's motives for denying access.
"You have to wonder what is it that the majority is trying to keep from the public," he said. "It's possible that one person is off his rocker, but when you're asking for public records, nothing says that you have to be sane."
Bender also said it's rare that elected officials have to file FOIA requests for information.
Unable to get the records or agenda items he has requested, Horton has tried to address the board during its comments session, just as any other member of the public would. But
Horton has not been called upon to speak.
SCPA director: Sheriff's calls subject to scrutiny
The Item reported that Sumter County Sheriff Anthony Dennis is being sued after his office denied the release of phone records requested by former Republican sheriff's candidate Doug Belote. Belote, who filed the lawsuit and hopes to run as a petition candidate for sheriff in November, argues the records would prove favoritism within the Sumter County Sheriff's Office.
But the office has not released those records contending they involve a call to and from a private number, among other reasons, and are therefore not subject to release under the FOIA.
Regardless of who the sheriff called - whether a public or private number - phone records are considered public information, SCPA Executive Director Bill Rogers said.
"(Belote's) request is tremendously broad, but there's no exemption for that. I think it'd be hard to shield a call to a deputy," he said. "The phone records are open, but with the conditions that they can redact things that could hinder an investigation."
Post and Courier editor and publisher to retire in December
Bill Hawkins, editor and publisher of The Post and Courier, has announced that he will retire at the end of the year.
Hawkins, who has spent almost 44 years in the newspaper business, came to Charleston as executive editor of The Post and Courier in March 2005. He was named editor and publisher in April 2009.
Hawkins is immediate past president of the S.C. Press Association, serving as president from March 2011 through March 2012. He also served as president of the N.C. Press Association in 2002, making him the first person to serve as president of both the South Carolina and North Carolina Press Associations.
Hawkins began working as a journalist in 1968. He was a reporter for the Baltimore Evening Sun and The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa.
Prior to joining The Post and Courier, Hawkins had been the executive editor of The Herald-Sun in Durham, N.C., and vice president of the Durham Herald Co.
NNA postal expert wins Al Smith Award for public service
Max Heath, retired vice president and executive editor of Landmark Community Newspapers Inc., and NNA postal expert will be honored next month with the Al Smith Award for public service through community journalism.
The Al Smith Award, named for a rural Kentucky newspaper publisher, is presented by the Bluegrass Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues. It is presented for a career of public service through community journalism in Kentucky, or anywhere by a current or former Kentuckian.
Few journalists have had as much positive impact on as many communities as Max Heath. He left a strong legacy of leadership during his years as executive editor of LCNI, recruiting, training and advising editors at the company’s 50-plus papers, most of them weeklies in rural areas and 19 of them in Kentucky. The company, a subsidiary of Landmark Media of Norfolk, Va., is nationally recognized for its support of strong news and editorial efforts.
Heath began his career in his hometown of Campbellsville, Ky., where he rose from teenage sports reporter to editor. He was also editor of the Landmark paper in Tell City, Ind. In retirement, he has continued his contributions to the health and future of community papers by serving as a consultant to them on increasingly critical postal issues.
Charleston’s Evening Post Publishing to sell Texas paper to Warren Buffett’s firm
Charleston-based Evening Post Publishing Co. has agreed to sell a small Texas newspaper, the Bryan-College Station Eagle, to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
Evening Post Publishing owned the paper for more than a decade.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
The Eagle is a daily paper with a circulation base of about 20,000 subscribers and 95 employees. It has been owned since 2001 by Evening Post.
Last month, Berkshire Hathaway announced a deal to buy 63 papers from Media General Inc. for $142 million. That deal included The Morning News of Florence, The Hartsville Messenger, The Weekly Observer in Hemingway, The Lake City News and Post and the Marion Star and Mullins Enterprise.
Advance Publications lays off 600 people at Times-Picayune, Alabama papers
Advance Publications announced Tuesday that it will cut about 600 jobs at The Times-Picayune and its papers in Birmingham, Mobile and Huntsville, Ala., when the papers stop printing daily and shift focus to their websites. Sixty percent of the editorial staff at The Birmingham News is being laid off, according to a source there who has seen a list of the targeted positions.
Throughout Alabama, about 400 Advance employees will lose their jobs, according to a post on al.com.
The cuts at The Times-Picayune, according to NOLA.com: 201 employees, or 32 percent of the company. The company said that 84 of 173 employees in the newsroom will lose their jobs.
Profits aren't the only consideration for newspapers
One of the challenges of discussing the besieged newspaper business is that it's not like just any business, or it shouldn't be. There is a public-service component to newspapering that is often at odds with the pursuit of maximum profits. That, in fact, is the industry's core problem as readership and revenue continue to dwindle: Many of the nation's newspapers are owned by corporations that are concerned primarily or solely with profits, which often isn't good for journalism. The only way to maintain profits in the short-term is to cut costs.
Analysis: In scare for newspapers, digital ad growth stalls
As more newspapers cut back on print to reduce costs and focus on their websites, a troubling trend has emerged: online advertising sales are stalling.
In the first quarter, digital advertising revenue at newspapers rose just 1 percent from a year ago, the fifth consecutive quarter that growth has declined, according to the Newspaper Association of America, a trade organization.
A flood of excess advertising space, the rise of electronic advertising exchanges that sell ads at cut-rate prices, and the weak U.S. economy are all contributing to the slowdown, publishing executives and observers say.
For an industry savaged by the erosion of print advertising dollars, significantly boosting digital revenue is necessary for survival. But the double-digit online growth rates that many newspapers used to enjoy – and on which their hopes for a prosperous future rest – could be a thing of the past. …“If you look at the top 20 companies that made all the money in local Internet advertising, more than two-thirds ... have nothing but advertising ... It’s not about the news.” said Gordon Borrell, CEO of Borrell Associates, citing websites like Autotrader, Yellowpages.com and Groupon.
Ways journalists can make better ethical decisions when using Facebook
Journalists using Facebook as a reporting tool have likely faced some ethical questions about what is and isn't appropriate — particularly when it comes to the information they post and the way they interact with sources on the site. For some insight, [Poynter] talked with several journalists — including The Wall Street Journal's Liz Heron and Breaking News' Lauren McCullough — for advice on how to avoid ethical issues on Facebook. Here are seven related tips.
The tiny N.C. newspaper that scooped up journalism's big prizes
Yancey County is located in the mountainous western stretch of North Carolina, about 45 minutes from Asheville. The county's population is less than 18,000, and yet it has two local papers to serve it: the Yancey Common Times Journal, which has been in publication more than a hundred years, and the "other" newspaper, the Yancey County News, founded in 2011. The paper's masthead lists only two people—husband and wife Jonathan and Susan Austin—but nevertheless, its first year out, the Yancey County News has won two major journalism awards, the E.W. Scripps Award for Distinguished Service to the First Amendment and the Ancil Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism.
The prizes were both awarded for stories reporting on corruption in the county's official channels. In one series, the paper revealed that the county's deputy-sheriff had pawned county-owned firearms for personal gain; another series uncovered absentee ballot fraud, voter coercion, and voter anonymity rights violations in the county. Juries for both awards recognized not only the quality of the reporting, but the extraordinary efforts necessary to get such reporting done in a paper's first year of existence.
Does your newsroom have a smart-refrigerator strategy?
In the future, the Jetsons have the TeleViewer, the McFlys have newspapers written by flying robots, and you'll be getting the morning news from your refrigerator. (You know — when fridge doors become screens that display your Twitter feed, or give real-time traffic updates for the morning commute, or project holograms of Steve Inskeep and Renée Montagne into your breakfast nook, which'll be integrated with Facebook so you can see real-time photos of what your friends are eating, etc., etc.)
Well, maybe. But it's a serious question for newsrooms: What's your refrigerator strategy?
The Internet-enabled future will reach more than kitchen appliances, of course, but it's a useful shorthand for delving into an approach to non-traditional devices that extends way beyond smartphones and tablets.
Slimp more mad than sad about
daily's conversion to online pubs
How the changes in New Orleans and Alabama monopolized my vacation (and plenty of sleep) over three harried days The news in New Orleans, Birmingham, Mobile and Huntsville that Newhouse was converting its daily papers in those cities to three day a week publications made front page news across America last month. Rumors began to spread as incoming publisher Ricky Mathews came to New Orleans in mid May and held off-site meetings with some, but not all of the Times-Picayune executives. It wasn't long before the staffs of the Newhouse papers in Birmingham, Mobile and Huntsville were hearing bad news of their own.
||Plan now for endorsements, the final step of election coverage
Readers have been inundated for months with coverage of the 2012 presidential election. Newsrooms also should be brainstorming for ways to bring attention to local races. IAs the primaries have passed, elections coverage is well underway. Election coverage is one of the most exhaustive and scrutinized tasks facing community newsrooms. Substantive coverage also is vitally important to an informed and engaged citizenry. Most important, editors and publishers should give consideration to endorsing candidates for local office. Newspapers have a right – indeed, a responsibility – as an institution in their communities. They are also in excellent position to do so as a clearinghouse of information.