July 14

 

A $20 tape recorder could
end executive session abuse
I got a call from a school board member recently asking what to do when her board goes into executive session and then talks about things that cannot legally be discussed there.

“Can I speak out about this without being sanctioned?,” she asked.

My response to her was two-fold. 

Of course she can speak out -- and in fact, I think she has an obligation to do so.  Public officials do not give up their First Amendment right to free speech when they take office.  And a board or council cannot legally sanction a member who does speak out -- only the voters can do that.

Secondly, I suggested that when this happens, she should object to the illegal discussion, and if it continues, pull out a hand-held tape recorder, turn it on and put it down in front of her. My bet is that the illegal meeting would end immediately.

I think that if a few right-thinking public officials followed this course of action, illegal executive sessions would come to an end in our state.

But the effort to stifle legitimate discussion of what happens in executive session continues to be formalized all across our state.

In Georgetown, the town council is considering an amendment to deal with confidentiality of executive sessions.

The wording being considered for addition to an ordinance states, “except as required by law... it shall be unlawful for a member of council or person in attendance at an executive session of the council to disclose to another person or make public the substance of a matter discussed” in the meeting.  Other public bodies have similar policies.

Sorry guys and gals, but a local ordinance doesn't trump the First Amendment. Let me also say this secret discussion of business that the law says must be done in public is not an isolated problem.read

New USPS direct mail program targets newspaper ad clients
The U.S. Postal Service is going hard after local advertisers through a new direct mail program -- and is trashing newspapers along the way.

National Newspaper Association Postal Consultant Max Heath has objected to the USPS approach.

“We understand your PRC-granted right to conduct EDDM/MMME efforts as an experimental program,” Heath wrote in a email to the Postal Service. “But I don't think we have to tolerate every postmaster trashing their local newspapers, which are, in most cases, the largest single postage-paying customer at that office. Many of our member publications provide TMC publications ensuring that every household can be reached with preprinted inserts, with breakdowns as far as individual postal routes or group of routes.

“The negative comparison is simply wrong, unfair, and should be stopped,” Heath continued. “And with entry windows being narrowed for periodicals, newspapers are interpreting the action as USPS trying to delay delivery of newspaper mail while selling directly against usÂ…”

 “The newspaper industry is up in arms over the presentations using negative comparisons with newspapers. I am hereby making a formal request that upper management instruct this to stop,” Heath also wrote.

Postmasters are even sending letters to newspaper editors promoting the new program.  One was published in The Link in Cheraw
.read

mimi

Publisher of The Columbia Star

What's your biggest challenge and how are you facing it?
The biggest challenge we face is keeping up with technology and having enough ads to pay for a quality newspaper each week. We are facing this by educating our employees on the latest techniques, renewing relationships of past advertisers, and seeking the business of local businesses we can serve best with our product.


What's the best part of working in the newspaper industry?
The best part of working in the newspaper industry is meeting new people, learning new things, and being able to start over each week with a brand new product.


What's your favorite SCPA member service?
The publishers' meetings are especially helpful because I can be with colleagues who are experiencing the same things my company is, and I am exposed to new ideas.

Any big plans for the summer?
My plans for the summer include reading several books to prepare for a course I will be taking in the fall at Columbia College that I hope will result in a series of stories in The Columbia Star.

The Post and Courier announced last week that Ken Burger is retiring after 37 years -- 27 of them at the Charleston paper.
A native of Allendale, Burger graduated from the University of Georgia. He worked for 10 years in Columbia before joining The Post and Courier. After returning to Charleston from Washington in 1988, Burger served as executive sports editor until 2008. From 2008 until the present, he worked as a metro columnist. Burger, 61, was hailed as one of the country's best sports columnists three times by The Associated Press, and he also won numerous writing awards in South Carolina. In 1996, he was named the state's Journalist of the Year. Burger published his first novel, "Swallow Savannah," in 2008, and his second novel, "Sister Santee," in 2010. He will continue writing books.


In June, the Cherokee Chronicle in Gaffney celebrated its 20th Anniversary. The paper put out a special section that had various stories and photos of interest including the top 20 stories of the past 20 years. The Chronicle also sold ads to local businesses that congratulated the Cherokee Chronicle on their birthday. Included was the photo at the right. Country singer T. Graham Brown (second from right) cut the ribbon for the first Chonicle office. Then staff included Charles Wyatt, sports and news reporter, photographer; Beth Ballantyne, receptionist, classifieds, billing and circulation; Kathy Allen, Ad Director; and Tommy Martin, editor and publisher.


Two journalists were awarded The State Media Co.’s top honors last week. Kelly Davis, an online producer and reporter, received the newspaper’s Hampton Award, and Noelle Phillips, a metro reporter, received the Gonzales Award. The awards are named after key figures in the newspaper’s history. Davis and Phillips each received $1,000 and a plaque as they were honored by colleagues. “Noelle and Kelly are outstanding professionals whose excellent work comes through in traditional print media as well as the new media, digital world,” said executive editor Mark E. Lett. “They value the impact and beauty of an important story, well told and well presented -- in print and online. Their work sets a standard for today’s journalism.”

The Gaffney Ledger won second place Best Humorous Column in the non-daily 5,000-7,999 circulation division of the National Newspaper Association's 2011 Better Newspaper Contest.

Lou Sossamon, retired publisher of The Gaffney Ledger, was the first All-American from USC in 1942. He also played for the N.Y. Yankees in the All-America Football Conference.
Dom Fusci and Sossamon purchased a fine bottle of scotch. It will go to the last one living, either the 89-year-old Fusci or the 90-year-old Sossamon. They laugh about the wager, but there's a hint of seriousness when it comes up. The moment makes two things glaringly obvious: South Carolina's oldest living football legends have terrific senses of humor -- and they're doggedly competitive, even when it comes to dying. read

DOT panel considers public input
After drawing criticism from open government advocates last month, state transportation commissioners said earlier this month that they'll consider adding a public comment period to each of their meeting agendas. SCPA, environmentalists and two DOT commissioners said last month that the public needs a regular opportunity to air its views on transportation matters. Environmentalists complained that they were denied an opportunity to talk to the commission about Interstate 73, a freeway to Myrtle Beach. SCPA Executive Director Bill Rogers said he's encouraged to hear the DOT is willing to consider adding public comment.

N.J. court orders officials to release govt. cell phone info
New Jersey officials who use taxpayer funded cell phones cannot keep information on the destination of outgoing calls secret, a state appellate court ruled earlier this month. The court ruled this week that the public interest in information on the city and state of the location of cell phone calls outweighed the privacy interests of state officials. It also rejected an effort by the state to absolutely bar such information from becoming public.

Lexington paper alerts public of statewide FOIA project through news, editorial pieces
The Lexington County Chronicle & The Dispatch News is encouraging the public to read and understand the FOIA through publicizing the importance of open government in the paper and on its website. Editor Emeritus Jerry Bellune wrote that The Chronicle and other S.C. newspapers are battling legal ignorance.  Bellune wrote of the statewide FOIA project to distribrute nearly 6,000 copies of "The Public Official's Guide to the FOIA" and he is making this easy-to-read booklet available at the newspaper office for residents to stop by and pick up a copy.

Public strongly backs news media as ‘watchdog on government’
Americans strongly support the idea of a free press as a watchdog on government, despite concerns by many about bias in news reports, according to the 2011 State of the First Amendment national survey conducted by the First Amendment Center. The results, the latest in an ongoing series of polls since 1997 concerning public knowledge and opinion about the First Amendment, were released today in remarks at the National Press Club by First Amendment Center President Ken Paulson. Paulson also is president of the American Society of News Editors, the nation’s largest organization of newsroom leaders.

industry news

28 S.C. post offices targeted for closure
The Postal Service is launching a study of thousands of local post offices for possible closure in an effort to save money. In South Carolina, 28 post offices are on the list to close. Most of the offices are in rural areas. The cash-strapped agency lost $8 billion last year.

The smart and sexy story of newspapers
With its new marketing campaign designed to promote the newspaper industry at large, the Newspaper Association of America wants to remind people that newspapers are still the greatest source of news in the country. NAA's campaign equates reading the paper with staying informed and being smart.
“More than ever before, there is a real perception-reality issue, in terms of newspaper readership and how newspapers are received in the marketplace,” said Jason Klein, president and CEO of Newspaper National Network LP in New York. “It’s getting reinvigorated by new digital, mobile, and tablet platforms. It’s getting an injection of young readers.”
“The real story is that the medium is still relevant and robust, particularly print,” Contreras said “It’s gotten an unfairly bad rap over the past five to six years.”

Newspapers and nonprofits team up for investigative journalism
Using industry-renowned editors and staffers, the nonprofits take on in-depth investigations that newspapers no longer have the time or the staff to conquer. The larger nonprofits generally report on any number of public policy issues with the goal of exposing wrongs and making corporations and institutions -- governmental and nongovernmental -- accountable. Smaller outlets tend to focus on only one or two issues but with the same transparency and policy reform goals in mind. These tax-exempt newsrooms, which provide paying jobs for journalists at a time when those are hard-won, give (and some recently sell) their stories to for-profit print, broadcast, and online news entities, as well as governmental institutions, NGOs, and others -- the result being thorough and accurate investigative reports available to an eager public otherwise awash in a sea of Internet news and blogs whose information is at best unknown, and at worst inaccurate.

Newsroom leaders resigned yet determined, ASNE-API survey shows
Editors around the country are frustrated by financial pressures, mandates beyond their control and constantly shifting goals. But they are determined to weather the storm, do good journalism and come out stronger on the other side, according to the results of a joint research survey released by the American Press Institute and the American Society of News Editors.

Guide released on navigating on the ethics of local journalism
With journalism entrepreneurs launching local news startups at a rapid pace, the local news landscape is evolving -- and so are the rules of the road guiding ethical decisions. Where a bright ethical line once separated a newsroom from its business operations, one person now often wears multiple hats, as editor, business manager and grants writer. Site publishers navigate new kinds of critical decisions daily. This guide examines a number of them.  You can click to any topic in any order.  Or, you can cruise through the Table of Contents. On every page you'll find a box that says, "Share your story." We invite you to weigh in with an ethical problem you faced -- and your solution.  Your participation will help inform a work in progress.

Post to Facebook at noon for peak engagement
After analyzing the keys to engagement on journalists' Facebook pages, the social network has analyzed the number of comments and likes on sampled news organization pages to determine best practices for engaging with readers.  Among the interesting findings: The most engaging Facebook news posts go beyond simply stating facts. Posts that ask questions, solicit input, call for a closer look, use clever language or highlight a specific quote all get above-average response. Also, items posted at 8 a.m. saw a 25 percent bump in engagement, and the biggest spikes were at 11 a.m. (50 percent) and noon (65 percent).

columns

Newsrooms place a premium on ensuring that government is transparent in its decisions. When elected and appointed officials fall short, a commentary is almost sure to follow. The principle is equally applicable to newsroom operations. Consider the many queries that editors and publishers receive on a regular basis. Why was my side not presented in the story? Why weren't we approached to be part of your special business section? Why did the newspaper endorse my opponent without giving me opportunity to respond to the charges? Transparency can be addressed in several ways. Taking extra steps will increase credibility with readers and can result in more substantive coverage. That's a winning combination. At its foundation, transparency means connecting with readers. read

How do you tell an advertiser, they're about to do, for lack of a gentler expression, an unwise thing? Now when I say unwise, between us, I mean dumb things like: Cut way back or drop out of the paper, run a real ugly ad or say something in an ad that you know is false. Also include in this category letting them buy things that you know won't work. Then there's the ultimate in ad revenue pain, "We're not going to run that ad." Better yet, how do you tell them it's the store, not the ads, that aren't working? Things like that can take all the fun out of selling advertising or running a newspaper, huh? Of course the answer is proceeding carefully and tactfully, but the higher requirement is the conviction and guts to do it. read

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July 28: Ad Task Force Meeting
SCPA Offices, Columbia

July 28: Webinar: Boost Local Ad Dollars With a Sales Agency Approach

August 5: Webinar: Perfecting InDesign's Secret Weapon to Saving You Time: Tables

August 12: Webinar: Selling to Main Street - Growing more local ad revenue

August 26: Workshop Committee Meeting, SCPA Offices, Columbia

Sept. 1: Basic and Advanced PhotoShop Seminar
SCPA Offices, Columbia

Sept. 7: FOI Committee Meeting
SCPA Offices, Columbia

Sept. 8: Daily Publishers' Roundtable
SCPA Offices, Columbia

Sept. 9: Webinar: Making Objections Obsolete - Sept. 9

Sept. 15: Contest Committee Meeting, SCPA Offices, Columbia

Sept. 16: Collegiate Boot Camp
Coastal Carolina University,
Registration info available soon!

Sept. 20: Webinar: Lessons From the Joplin Globe Tragedy: Covering and Managing the Newsroom During a Crisis

Sept. 22: Webinar: Leading the Way, Today!

Sept. 22: Executive Committee Meeting, SCPA Offices, Columbia

Sept. 29: Webinar: Leveraging Facebook to Drive Readership

Oct. 2-8: National Newspaper Week

Oct. 7: News Contest Rules Available

Oct. 20: Ad Basics
SCPA Offices, Columbia

Oct. 27: Design That Sells
SCPA Offices, Columbia



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