Digging up details about private companies
Editor's note: Rob Wells was the Reynolds Visiting Professor at the University of South Carolina for the spring 2012 semester. Prior to that, he was deputy bureau chief of the Dow Jones Newswires/Wall Street Journal Washington bureau until November 2011, where he organized and edited real-time news coverage in the nation's capital. He will be participating in the University's Convergence and Society program Sept. 27-28.
Diners at a local restaurant rush to the hospital with food poisoning. A machinist dies in a heavy equipment accident at a nearby factory. The banker downtown has just ripped off his customers.
These are examples of news involving private companies in our neighborhoods. To better inform our readers, we want to find out more about the owners and management of the restaurant, factory and bank, but hit a wall when we learn the companies are private.
Don't despair. A persistent reporter can dig up plenty of details about a private company, ranging from officers' identities to property details to tax bills. This takes more time than researching publicly held companies, or those that sell stock to the public.
In South Carolina and throughout the country, the majority of businesses will be small and privately held concerns. There are approximately 15,000 U.S. public companies, but some six million firms are privately held. Generally speaking, small and privately held firms employ more than half of the workforce and account for more than half of the country's output.
As you begin to dig for information, ask this: where does the business intersect with government? A restaurant has to get a license from the health department. A doctor has to get a medical license, and so on. State occupational license boards hold records of private companies. The South Carolina Dept. of Labor, Licensing and Regulation's website is: http://www.llr.state.sc.us/pol.asp Here you can plug in the name of your friendly barber or hairdresser and find some basic information about their mailing address, business incorporation name and whether their license is current or expired. Here is a similar portal for public records in other states: http://www.brbpub.com/
Libel suit dismissed against Aiken Standard
A circuit court judge has dismissed a former solicitor's libel suit against the Aiken Standard and a former reporter.
The suit was brought by Robert J. Harte, a former solicitor in the 2nd circuit. The suit claimed the newspaper and reporter Mike Gellatly had defamed Harte in a news report on a guilty plea proceeding in federal court involving the solicitor's brother, John Harte, Jr. The suit claimed the paper's story implied that the plaintiff was involved with his brother's money laundering.
John Harte was a former family court judge in the 2nd Circuit.
The federal government has charged John Harte and others with conspiring to shelter assets stolen by a client from the client's employer.
The newspaper reported on the guilty plea hearing and stated clearly that the plaintiff was neither engaged in or charged with any criminal activity.
The circuit court judge, Edgar Dickson of Orangeburg, ruled that the news report could not reasonably be read to make false and defamatory statements with respect to the plaintiff.
The newspaper and its reporter were represented by attorney Jay Bender. The plaintiff was represented by former U.S. Attorney John Simmons.
SCPA to host basic and advanced Dreamweaver training this fall
Learn the basics of Adobe Dreamweaver at SCPA Offices in Columbia on Sept. 27, from 9:30 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Adobe expert Michelle Kerscher will teach the basics including: basic HTML terms, overview of the Dreamweaver interface, pros and cons of Dreamweaver and other Web editing software, planning a website, how to create a site from scratch, how to import an existing site, exploring site structure, sorting, moving and accessing files in Dreamweaver, creating links, using/naming element names, tags and keywords, SEO for beginners, formatting text, linking to an existing CSS file, CSS for beginners, creating a website layout in Photoshop and creating slices, inserting a header, footer, navigation, sidebar and tables from Photoshop slices and setting background properties.
Kerscher is a graduate of the Newspaper Institute of Technology. In addition to working as a trainer for SCPA, she has mastered design and use of Adobe products as a newspaper designer, Web designer and commercial press designer. She has a real knack for explaining high-tech topics in plain-language. This training will be easy to understand for all levels of Adobe users. Though Kerscher will touch on some of the latest features of CS6, her classes are designed for users of all versions of the software in Mac or PC platforms. Registrants must have attended the Intro to Dreamweaver on Sept. 27 or have basic proficiency in Dreamweaver.
Each session is limited to 30 attendees, so if you are interested, sign up today!
Publisher of the Moultrie News, MUSC Catalyst and Charleston Mercury
What do you like best about your job?
I enjoy meeting people and making new friends. In this job I am constantly exposed to different and interesting people. I have met famous people and people who should have been famous. I have helped raise money for worthy causes and I have showcased outstanding citizens. And along the way I have tried to make sure government stays responsive to its citizens. Since I work for a community newspaper, I often take photos at events. It is so much fun to ask someone if you can take their photo and they reply back about how much they enjoy your newspaper.
What would you say is your proudest moment from your career in the newspaper industry?
I just celebrated my 40th anniversary with the Evening Post Publishing Company. I have had the pleasure of working for a company that I respect and who has respected me in return. It doesn't get much better than that! Let's see what I can do in the next 40 years!
How do you view the future of the newspaper industry?
I see the newspaper industry changing and evolving with social media; however, the core of the community newspaper, which is serving their readership, will never change. We provide news that people cannot get anywhere else.
What's your favorite SCPA member service?
I think the SPCA does an excellent service in many areas, but my personal favorites are the legal services and FOI information and updates.
Any big plans coming up?
I have two daughters in college and I look forward to their graduations. I hope after they graduate we can visit Europe together.
Veteran journalist Stephen Guilfoyle will be at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte during the week of Sept. 3.
He will post a few photos and an acceptance story for the S.C. News Exchange site. These will be available to all members at no charge.
If you would like to
hire Stephen to write an article on your local delegate(s), he can be reached at
The Daily Gamecock, USC's campus newspaper, has been named one of the best college newspapers in the country. The Princeton Review just released its 2012 Best College Newspapers list and The Daily Gamecock ranks #14.
In the SCPA Collegiate division, The Daily Gamecock has won the Best Overall newspaper publication in the Over 5,000 or Daily/Weekly division for the past several years.
| Berkshire Hathaway doubles stake in Lee Enterprises
Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has nearly doubled its stake in newspaper publisher Lee Enterprises, the parent company of The Times and Democrat in Orangeburg.
Lee's shares jumped nearly 20 percent on the news, closing at $1.59, up 26 cents.
In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission Tuesday, Omaha-based Berkshire Hathaway, disclosed that its stake in Lee Enterprises has grown to 3.23 million shares, about 6 percent of shares outstanding. In June, Berkshire's ownership stake in Lee totaled 1.7 million shares, according to regulatory filings.
GA-AL N.A.M.E. merges with Mid-Atlantic N.A.M.E.
The Georgia-Alabama and Mid-Atlantic Newspaper and Marketing Executives recently completed a merger of the two organizations after years of discussion.
In the process, the GA-AL group will be absorbed into the Mid-Atlantic N.A.M.E. with full membership available to all newspapers in those two states.
The plan was approved by GA-AL officers and the process reviewed with the Secretaries of State offices in S.C. and Georgia. For more details about the merger, visit the www.midatlanticname.com member page.
Google uses print newspaper ad to advertise search ad effectiveness
Google searches frequently help drive traffic to news stories at newspaper websites.
But here’s a different twist on the relationship between the search giant and newspapers: Using a newspaper to drive advertisers to the search giant.
That’s what Google apparently hopes to achieve in its new ad, which Globe and Mail media reporter Steve Ladurantaye discovered in his paper and then tweeted. Or maybe the message to take away is the opposite, as Ladurantaye tweeted about the half-page ad: “An ad for Google ads in today’s Globe demonstrates the value of print ads, yes?”
Swipe, Share, Sell: What publishers need to know about digital editions
From Editor & Publisher: Digital editions have emerged as a key strategy among newspapers seeking to distribute content across new platforms and sell more advertising. While some publishers opt for bundling the electronic product with print subscriptions, others are treating the two mediums as separate products — and reaping the advertising results. Market size, audience profile, content type, and overall digital strategy are all factors in play when building a digital edition.
“As newspapers add platforms, many are either changing their limited-access strategies or rethinking how their strategies apply to an app,” said Newspaper Association of America vice president of audience development John Murray in the NAA/ABC subcommittee’s 2011 guide to U.S. newspaper digital editions. “It’s the topic of the day, especially coupled with revenue demands as newspapers acknowledge the fact that the business model is changing.”
Scaled-back newspapers leave older readers behind
From American Public Media: The newspaper world is still grappling with enormous changes to its industry prompted by the Internet. Most recently, several papers including the New Orleans Times-Picayune and three in Alabama announced they would cut circulation to fewer than seven days a week and shift their focus to online news delivery.
But there are plenty of people out there who don't want to get their news online. Folks like Susan Leara, a 40-year subscriber to The Birmingham News.
I was in shock. I really and truly thought, 'Whoever made this decision has really and truly lost their mind,'" Leara said.
So what becomes of those who prefer print to pixels? Gigi Douban reports from Birmingham.
Online, social media to take center stage at U.S. presidential conventions
Traditional news outlets in the United States are turning to online and social media to cover the 2012 presidential conventions while decreasing televised coverage, reported the Wall Street Journal on Sunday, Aug. 19.
Following a trend of decreasing television coverage of political conventions, the four major U.S. broadcasters will only offer three hours of prime time television coverage—an hour less than in 2008—for the Republican (RNC) and Democratic National Conventions (DNC) during the next two weeks, according to the Huffington Post.
Without cable outlets like MSNBC and FOX News, ABC and CBS will lean heavily on their online coverage, according to TVNewser. Other non-traditional online media companies will also be present, including the Huffington Post, Yahoo, and BuzzFeed, reported the Tampa Bay Times.
The biggest change in coverage this year will be social media’s major role at the convention. Convention enthusiasts can expect Google+ Hangouts with NBC correspondents, streaming video on Facebook, and video on-demand via smart phone applications, reported NBC News and TVNewser. Time magazine and Foursquare teamed up to offer special content to convention-goers that check in at certain locations, reported Fishbowl, N.Y.
Make more money in slack times
We all have slow quarters in advertising and subscription sales.
The first quarter and the third quarter are the slower quarters in our market. Thank goodness for the second and fourth quarters where retail sales-and ours--pick up.
In resort areas, it is often just the reverse. Vacationers make the first and third quarters the best. July is a real challenge so we have to come up with slow month business builders for our advertisers and ourselves.
My dentist, Greg Wych, recently introduced me to a business term I had not heard before. He calls it "slack adjusters," which means goods and services you can provide in slow sales and revenue downtime and particularly that your competition doesn't offer.
Here are 13 "slack adjusters" we use and any newspaper owners and their people should be able to handle, even if farming it out.
Fixes for advertising flaws
Golf magazine runs features which focus on problems and solutions in golf swings.
It's a good way for duffers – as well as experienced golfers – to improve specific elements of their games.
In the spirit of improving our advertising swing, let's apply this concept to the ad business.
Here's a look at two problem areas – one involving a sales presentation, and one involving a challenging creative situation.
Flaw: A prospective advertiser is not listening to your sales pitch.
This is a common problem in the sales profession. You're sitting across the desk from a big advertising prospect, and she is barely paying attention. Your carefully prepared charts and graphs generate no interest at all. And each point you mention is met with a polite nod or a distracted "uh huh." The longer you talk, the more fidgety she becomes. Her glances at her computer monitor indicate that you're quickly running out of time. You feel like you're sinking in quicksand.
Aug. 23: Contest Committee Meeting, SCPA Offices, Columbia
Aug. 29: Webinar: The Art of Selling Deals: Strategies for Securing the Best Offers
Aug. 30: Webinar: Online Promotions: Tapping Into a New Revenue Source
Sept. 3: Happy Labor Day! SCPA Offices closed in observance.
Sept. 12: Collegiate Webinar Wednesday: How to not get sued
Sept. 13: Webinar: How to pursue an investigative project while juggling other stories
Sept. 14: Webinar: Digital Monetization
Sept. 20: Executive Committee Meeting, SCPA Offices, Columbia
Sept. 27: Intro to Adobe Dreamweaver (Part One of Two), SCPA Offices, Columbia
Sept. 28: FOI Committee Meeting, SCPA Offices Columbia
Oct. 3-7: NNA Annual Convention and Trade Show, Charleston
Oct. 7-13: National Newspaper Week
Oct. 11: Advanced InDesign and PDF Training, SCPA Offices, Columbia
Oct. 18: Ad Basics, SCPA Offices, Columbia
Nov. 1: Advanced Adobe Dreamweaver (Part Two of Two), SCPA Offices, Columbia
March 22-24, 2013: SCPA Annual Meeting and Awards Presentation, The Westin Poinsett Hotel, Greenville