|Judge dismisses Sumter FOI suit over autopsy record
A Circuit Court judge has granted a summary judgment dismissing the suit filed by The Item in Sumter against the local coroner, who refused to release autopsy records claiming they were medical records covered by HIPPA.
The order, by Judge Clifton Newman, sited the Dale Earnhardt Law prohibiting access to autopsy photos and videos.
The order said “the written autopsy report for Aaron Leon Jacobs is a “medical record” as that term is used in the definition of “public record…the autopsy report at issue is not subject to disclosure under FOIA.”
Bill Rogers, executive director of SCPA, said that this ruling, if it stands, will have a tremendous impact on the public’s oversight of police and coroners in this state. “We will help as we can if the Item decides to appeal,” he added.
SCPA Attorney Jay Bender is on vacation.
The Item’s story on the ruling will be posted on the www.scpress.org when it becomes available. Click here to see the full ruling.
|Commentary: Make public records easier for citizens to get
Citizens are frequently urged to get involved in the process of government. Those who heed the call by seeking insights into the workings of government often learn the hurdles can be high and costly.
Consider the plight of Alberta Wasden, an accountant, who sought financial statements and meeting minutes from the Town of Swansea. She filed a Freedom of Information request two years ago. Swansea officials originally wanted $10,000 from Wasden for the information which also included a request for data on business licenses and paperwork related to grants and federal funding to the community.
She later pared back her request, but after forking over a pile of money and wasting lots of time, Wasden has only received bits and pieces of the information she requested.
Regrettably, the frustrations experienced by Wasden aren't isolated. That's why I introduced legislation to strengthen South Carolina's weak Freedom of Information Act last session.
During committee testimony in the House of Representatives, we not only heard Wasden tell of her difficulties with city government, but similar stories came from other citizens who recounted the obstacles they faced in getting requested government information.
The government hassle-factor has been played out in every county in South Carolina over the years, including Aiken County. A House subcommittee heard from Aiken residents who recounted difficulties they had getting documents from the Aiken County School District during the 2010 construction bond referendum campaign. The information would have likely shined light on the controversial issue, but school officials delayed and didn't fulfill the FOIA request until weeks after the voting in which the bond referendum was defeated.
What do you like best about your job?
The people. I’m blessed to work with a talented and dedicated staff. We’ve got phenomenal reporters, designers, editors and a fantastic photographer. Every day, I’m more amazed at how talented our staff is. But more important than that, they’re great people. We’ve got a newsroom staff that, I think, genuinely cares about each other. When you have that type of relationship with your co-workers – not just in the office, but away from it – I think it provides an environment hard to surpass.
What would you say is your proudest moment from your career in the newspaper industry?
I think the growth of our newsroom – not just in awards, but in overall quality – is what I’m most proud of. A few years ago, we were a single-digit SCPA awards newspaper. We’d get one or two or five awards, and we thought that was great. Going from 14 after my first year as associate editor to 34 this past year (including the President’s Cup) was an indication of our growth as a newsroom and our improvement in the eyes of fellow journalists. That success is because of the fine people I work with and have worked with.
How do you view the future of the newspaper industry?
If I knew, I’d be rich. I think newspapers will continue to exist, in some form or another. I think smaller papers – especially family owned publications such as the Index-Journal – have a better chance of survival since there are fewer “real” competitors out there and we don’t have the extra layers of corporate executives. I do think the best way for us to survive the changing landscape and a less-than-robust economy isn’t to shortchange our readers. That’s what I find so frustrating. I understand the reasons for “slash, slash, slash” involve money, but I don’t see how reducing a product and shortchanging readers is supposed to save newspapers. I hope newspapers – and other media entities – change direction and focus on producing the best possible product and not the least expensive one. If we’re going to keep readers and secure more readers, we probably should produce a product people MUST have, and a product readers MUST have should be the best newspaper they’ve ever seen.
What’s your favorite SCPA member service?
I’m a big fan of running South Carolina Law Enforcement Division checks, so that’s my favorite day-to-day service. But I think the SCPA does a wonderful job with seminars, offering advice on FOIA matters, placing quality interns with newspapers (our SCPA-provided intern has done a great job) and, of course, throwing a great awards banquet each year.
Any big plans coming up?
Our newsroom will soon upgrade its computer equipment, so I’m looking forward to the challenge and obvious hurdles that come with switching systems. We’ll also soon be preparing for our back-to-school section and football preview section (a top-10 winner in the Associated Press Sports Editors awards contest last year). We just got through the election primaries – 12 races in one day – so I’ll also “decertify” myself for a week in July and go on vacation.
|Press official: Norway council’s private discussions on public money illegal
According to The Times and Democrat, Norway's mayor and three council members recently met in executive session with a representative from the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office for the purpose of discussing a “criminal matter.”
While Norway's Mayor Jim Preacher announced the meeting was to begin at 7 p.m., it started early. Preacher said that once town officials and Kinsey had all arrived at Town Hall at about 6:40 p.m., he called the meeting to order.
Preacher said, “This is not open to the public or press.”
He said the “criminal matter” concerned the discharge of firearms at two parks in the Town of Norway on two occasions. No one was reported injured in either incident.
Kinsey left the meeting at about 7:15 p.m., and council continued its meeting in executive session. Members discussed topics other than the criminal matter, including a financial matter and a personnel matter.
“They clearly broke the law with the meeting,” said SCPA Executive Director Bill Rogers. “They have to start the meeting in open session at the time announced and then state specifically what they are going to discuss.”
Camden Media Co. names Greenway general manager
Betsy Greenway, longtime advertising director of Camden Media Co., has been named general manager. In addition to her current considerable responsibilities with advertising sales and all company promotions, Greenway will now assist the publisher with operational duties within the publishing company.
Greenway, a native of Oxford, N.C., joined the company with the Camden Independent in 1978, prior to its merger with The Camden Chronicle that formed, what is now, the Chronicle-Independent. She began as an advertising representative and as the company grew, her responsibility with it also grew. In rapid order she progressed from advertising manager to her previous title of advertising director to, now, general manager of Camden Media Co.
Greenway, a member of Lyttleton St. United Methodist Church, is the mother of three married sons, Garland, Todd and Cameron Greenway, and grandmother of eight.
Camden Media Co.publishes the Chronicle-Independent in Camden, the West Wateree Chronicle in Lugoff/Elgin, Lee County Observer in Bishopville, The Fort Jackson Leader, The Shaw News, The (Blythewood) Country Chronicle, Lake Wateree News and The Connection for a total distribution in excess of 61,000. Additionally, Camden Media publishes The Camden Horse, Camden’s local horse magazine with a distribution of 7,500 in Kershaw County.
World Media Enterprises names regional VP
World Media Enterprises, a part of the Berkshire Hathaway Media Group that purchased Media General newspapers, has named Kevin Kampman as Vice President of Community Newspapers for the Southern Division of World Media Enterprises, Inc.
He will be responsible for managing the community newspapers in North Carolina, South Carolina and Alabama.
Kampman previously was publisher of The Repository in Canton, Ohio, since June, 2007, and also served as Regional Vice President for 12 newspapers in the Great Lakes Region of GateHouse Media. Overall, Kampman brings 32 years of experience in the newspaper industry, including the last 15 in senior management positions.
“I have known Kevin for a number of years and believe we are very fortunate to have someone of Kevin’s caliber join the World Media team,” said Doug Hiemstra, President & CEO of World Media Enterprises.
Kevin is a native of the Cleveland area and graduated from the University of Akron. Kevin, his wife, Deborah, and their 18-year-old son, the youngest of four children, now live in Canton, Ohio.
In South Carolina, newspapers World Media Enterprises papers include the Morning News in Florence, The Hartsville Messenger, The Marion Star & The Mullins Enterprise, The Lake City News & Post and The Weekly Observer in Hemingway.
USC J-School hires new leadership for Carolina Reporter
Renowned journalist Deborah Gump will join Scott Farrand to head USC's print journalism’s “senior semester” program, which produces Carolina Reporter, a weekly lab paper.
Gump is the former director of print for the Washington, D.C., Committee of Concerned Journalists. She is a longtime colleague of J-School professors Carol Pardun and Doug Fisher.
When Pardun heard that Gump’s term at Middle Tennessee State University was ending, she jumped at the opportunity to bring her to USC’s program.
Fisher is already teaching five courses, and Pardun said Gump’s entrance will provide him some relief.
Pardun believes Gump has the ability to inspire students and establish growth in the print journalism sequence, which is notoriously smaller than the other sequences in USC’s College of Mass Communications and Information Studies.
Only seven students are currently enrolled in the fall’s senior semester, which will give Gump the chance to get to know them individually and still have time to work with other school organizations.
At Middle Tennessee State University, Gump was the John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies. She has also been a visiting professor at Ohio University, senior editor of the Marin Independent Journal, national news editor of the San Jose Mercury News and a reporter for the Times-Union from Rochester, N.Y. Gump created EditTeach.org, an interactive editing education program that provides resources to professors, students and professionals.
The Item has racks for sale
The Item has approximately 50, K-80 style newspaper racks for sale, “as is”, $50 per box. First come, first served! Interested? Contact Earle Woodward, Circulation Director, via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (803-774-1259).
Workshop on covering the DNC to be held July 28 in Charlotte
"Ready, Set, Go: Preparing To Cover DNC 2012" is a July 28 seminar offering area journalists a day's worth of expertise on national political conventions and how to report about them. The idea emerged when the Greater Charlotte Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists realized that most reporters coming to the convention from the Carolinas have never been to one before.
In addition to covering how to report on the DNC, the session will focus on the evolution of political conventions and how to avoid arrest if you're reporting on a protest demonstration.
Registration, which includes lunch, is $15 for dues-paying SPJ members and students, $25 for others. This event, in partnership with UNC Charlotte's Department of Communications Studies, is funded by a grant from the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation of SPJ. Click here for more details or here to register.
More stories result in more subscription revenue, Press+ says
Press+ compared four newspaper websites using its digital subscription system, each with similar Web traffic and in similar communities, but very different output in daily stories. “Over time, the site with 82 daily stories sold 10 times as many subscriptions per month as the site with 50 stories a day and sold 15 times as many subscriptions as the newspaper with 20 stories a day.”
The conclusion: “If you want to sell journalism, you have to do journalism,” said Press+ co-founder Steven Brill in a news release.
Halifax to add paywalls
Newspapers owned by Halifax Media Group will introduce paywalls across its papers beginning this fall as the publisher broadens its operations.
In an interview with The Daily News in Jacksonville, N.C., Halifax CEO Michael Redding said he remains committed to print but also intends to take steps to grow the company’s digital revenues. In South Carolina, Halifax owns the Herald-Journal in Spartanburg.
Survey: Tablets the new evening paper?
News consumption among tablet users spikes after 5 p.m. as consumers increasingly use the mobile gadgets to keep up with late-breaking developments. As part of the third installment from the Reynolds Journalism Institute’s Media News Consumption Survey, researchers said iPad and Android-tablet users consume more news than those who don’t own the devices and that they tend to access news sites while relaxing at home after work. The study also found that compared to a printed newspaper, 60% of large media tablet users and 50% of smartphone owners consider their experience consuming news on their mobile device to be better. To see the survey results, click here.
NNA strongly objects to Valassis NSA
NNA registered strong objection to a proposal by the U.S. Postal Service to set up a contract direct mail rate for “marriage mail” advertising aggregator Valassis Inc.
The objections were filed with the Postal Regulatory Commission, which is reviewing a proposed Negotiated Service Agreement between USPS and Valassis. Newspaper competitor ADVO was bought by Valassis in 2006. SCPA has also filed an objection.
“The (PRC) must grapple with what it means to the American public, as well as for postal competitors, for the Postal Service to set its sights on increasing its mail volume by cutting deals with advertisers. For larger newspapers, the NSA could deliver a final blow to publications already struggling to grapple with the impact of the Internet and the Great Recession. What the Postal Service seems not to understand is that the NSA would have an impact upon smaller newspapers as well,” NNA told the commission. NNA said the proposal was an improper use of the Postal Service’s market power. It urged the PRC to find that the NSA does not comply with federal law.
TV-newspaper ownership limits left intact by high court
The U.S. Supreme Court left intact decades-old limits on ownership of broadcast stations and newspapers, refusing to hear media-industry appeals that might have led to a wave of acquisitions. Media companies argued that FCC rules, some of which date to 1941, don’t make sense in an age of cable television and the Internet. The companies challenged the rules on free-speech grounds.
The FCC, which must periodically review media-ownership regulations, has proposed keeping some limits in a rulemaking begun in December.
Young tablet owners more willing to pay for news
Paying for online news is still a minority sport – but participation may be growing thanks to tablet computers.
Those who have paid for digital news ranges from 12% in Denmark to 4% in the UK, according to the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism’s new Digital News Report 2012. And only six percent of survey respondents said they would be willing, in future, to pay for news from sources they liked.
But, while willingness was just five percent for computer access, it rose to 16% on tablet and 12% on mobile. Also encouraging – those aged 16-24 and 25-34 are most willing to pay (13% and 11%, respectively), compared with just 5% 35-54s and just 3% of over-55s.
|Post and Courier attorney, freedom of press advocate John Kerr dies
John Kerr, a longtime attorney for The Post and Courier and a champion of freedom of the press, died July 4 after a long illness. He was 66.
“Citizens across South Carolina will benefit for years to come from John’s legacy as a defender of the public’s right to know,” said William E.N. Hawkins, editor and publisher of The Post and Courier.
“He championed First Amendment causes in courtrooms across the state, including the Supreme Court, winning major cases that opened up public meetings and public records. South Carolinians today have the right to see evaluations of public school superintendents thanks to John’s skills as a media lawyer,” Hawkins said.
A lawyer with Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, Kerr was a 1968 graduate of The Citadel. He received his law degree from the University of South Carolina in 1973.
For more than 20 years, Kerr’s work centered on defense of libel and slander actions against broadcast and print media, the FOIA, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, copyright, media-related contracts and Internet law issues.
Kerr was included in “The Best Lawyers in America” for his work in First Amendment law.
Kerr was also former president of the Charleston Lawyers Club and the Young Lawyers Division of the South Carolina Bar; a member of the Board of Governors of the South Carolina Bar; a former vestry member at St. Philip’s Church; and former president of the John Ancrum Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Play to your strengths
Some newspapers are "photo papers." Others excel at typography. Still others use graphics very well. Do you know which you are? And...if you do...do you use those skills to make your paper more appealing to readers? If you have a star photographer on your staff, it's to your benefit to create more photo packages and more photo pages to showcase her skills. Give her more opportunities—and give your readers more compelling packages as a result. Better yet, get her involved in your weekly (or daily) and long-term planning sessions. (You do have regular planning sessions, don't you?) With her visual skills, she's bound to offer more ideas for you to attract readers. Let's assume otherwise: You don't have that super photographer—but you do have a page designer who can take good (not great) photos and package them will with your stories to create pages that capture your readers' attention.
||Who's to argue with Warren Buffet?
You probably hear many of the same questions we hear in the communities we cover. "How is your newspaper doing?" Or "How badly is the Internet hurting you?" And you probably answer truthfully, "We're doing better than the national media would have you believe." We're not alone in working to guarantee the survival of newspapers by what we do for our communities. One of the world's wealthiest men is betting $142 million on our future. Warren Buffet's investment company paid that for 63 Media General newspapers. In a letter to the newspaper's editors and publishers, the billionaire investor said he believes "newspapers that intensively cover their communities will have a good future. "It's your job to make your paper indispensable to anyone who cares about what is going on in your town." A newspaper reader himself, Buffet reminds us of three vital reader attraction and retention strategies.