Transparency pledge could help bring FOI compliance
Here is an idea I encourage you to use as the election approaches.
Have candidates sign a transparency pledge.
When candidates come in for an endorsement, print out the pledge and ask them to sign it.
And be even more proactive: send a copy of the pledge to all local school board and council candidates and ask them to sign it and return to your office.
At the least, run a list of those who have signed the transparency pledge. Make a big deal of it in an editorial.
And if you want to, offer to run their pictures in the paper signing the pledge in your office. This is a carrot for them and really puts them in the public record as being for open government.
This pledge ups the visibility of openness as a campaign issue, and politicians might follow the tenets put forth.  (If after election they don't, you can remind them.)
Here is sample wording:

Transparency Pledge
As an elected official in the State of South Carolina, I pledge to support transparency in government through my votes and actions. I pledge to:
-- Participate in no votes or straw polls in executive sessions or via electronic means.
-- Use my public email account for public business,  and in the event I use my private email I will send a copy to my public account. I agree that discussions of government business by personal email, text or other electronic devices remain the public's business and as such should be readily available for public access.
-- Discuss only specified and legally justified items in executive session.  In the event an illegal discussion begins, I will ask the chair to defer any discussion until the public session. If this fails, I will not participate further in the discussion.
-- Understand it is my right and responsibility to view financial and other records of my public body.
-- Support providing public records to the public in a prompt manner with minimal costs involved.
-- Read the Public Official's Guide to Compliance with South Carolina's Freedom of Information Act
Email me and I'll send you an actual form.
It is worth a try.

Post Office approves sweetheart deal for newspapers' largest direct-mail competitor
The Newspaper Association of America is stunned by the U.S. Postal Regulatory Commission’s decision last week to approve an anti-competitive and damaging negotiated services agreement (or special contract rate) between the U.S. Postal Service and Valassis Direct Mail.
“NAA believes this decision is contrary to law, and will challenge it immediately and vigorously in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit,” said NAA Chairman James M. Moroney III, CEO and publisher of The Dallas Morning News.
Prior to the decision, NAA and its members called on Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe to acknowledge the overwhelming opposition expressed by the newspaper industry and others in the mailing community during this proceeding, and urged him to withdraw this special deal that benefits only one mailer.
As NAA’s comments filed with the PRC noted, granting this special rate to one major competitor in the mailing business will cause significant financial harm to newspapers throughout the country, and will not improve the financial condition of the nation’s postal system.
"In reaching this decision, the Postal Regulatory Commission ignored the many compelling comments it received objecting to a profoundly anti-competitive proposal,” said Caroline H. Little, NAA president and CEO. “In fact, the Public Representative appointed by the Commission itself to represent the views of the general public pointed out that this is the ‘first NSA that is designed to manipulate prices and to alter the balance of market forces.’ The Public Representative also said that ‘this NSA as currently structured is a lose-lose proposition for both the newspaper industry and the Postal Service.’
"The nation’s newspapers and the Postal Service share a long history of working together to keep Americans informed and connected with one another,” Little added. “The Postal Service should focus on cutting costs and getting the mail delivered on time – and not on using rates to confer a significant and unwarranted advantage on one competitor at the expense of an entire industry. This special arrangement calls into question whether the Postal Service should offer these types of deals in the first place.”
View NAA's full comments to the PRC and read the PRC's decision.

Foundation internship validates USC's student's interest in newspaper career
USC Senior Erin Shaw just wrapped up her 10-week SCPA Foundation internship at the Summerville Journal Scene.
Shaw, a print journalism major and Spanish minor, covered all sorts of stories, from spot news to in-depth features. She also wrote all of her own headlines and cutlines, and took her own photos. She also got to work some on page design.
Prior to this summer's internship, Shaw had mostly written Arts and Entertainment stories. She said she enjoyed the opportunity to try new areas and see what a regular reporting job entailed.
"Being able to try different things, like writing headlines and cutlines, helped me develop news skills beyond just reporting and writing," Shaw said. "I had never worked a regular 9-5 job before either, so that definitely opened my eyes to the 'real world' that awaits me after college.”
Although Shaw had never worked at a weekly publication before, Journal Scene Editor Judy Watts said Shaw had no problem fitting in.
“I was very pleased.  She is an excellent writer, and although this was her first introduction to a weekly newspaper she adjusted to the different pace and environment,” Watts said. “Erin will be an excellent journalist. She enjoys the process of gathering and writing. Her photographic skills are a real asset and one that a lot of people just don't have.”
Shaw said her Foundation internship validated her decision to continue in the newspaper field after finishing at USC.
“I am extremely grateful to SCPA for allowing me this opportunity," she said. "I think it is absolutely vital to get experiences outside classroom, especially in the journalism field, and SCPA gave me the chance to do just that. I've been able to learn more about myself and my chosen profession in a challenging environment this summer, which I know will pay off as I pursue a journalism career after graduation.”
The SCPA Foundation internship program depends on gifts from our newspapers and individual members. If you want to support the education of our future newspaper journalists in South Carolina, consider making a tax-deductible donation to the Foundation. No gift is too small. Contact Jen to find out how you can help.

Next week we'll introduce you to Winthrop student Amanda Phipps. Amanda spent her summer interning at the Herald-Journal in Spartanburg.

Chronicle-Independent, Camden

What do you like best about your job?
If I’d been asked that just a few months ago, I would have simply said, “writing.” It’s what I’ve wanted to do all my life. In fact, when I first applied to work at the C-I -- having come from a radio broadcasting background of all things -- I told the editor and publisher that, “All I want to do is write.” Luckily, even with my recent promotion to editor, I still get to write, and that’s great. However, my answer now is “leading and teaching a talented young group of journalists about community journalism, why it’s important and how to be even better at it than they already are.”

What would you say is your proudest moment from your career in the newspaper industry?
I’ve won several first place SCPA awards, including spot news for a kidnapping story and series of articles on a 1974 murder of a deputy. I’m also very proud of the fact that the C-I has won the General Excellence award in our division for three out of the last five years, including the last two back-to-back. The one award I’m proudest of, though, didn’t come from the SCPA. In 2003, I was recognized by the American Legion during their state conference with a “Certificate of Excellence in Journalism” for my coverage of the military and veterans in Kershaw County. Considering my grandfather was both a journalist and a WWII vet, it meant a lot to me coming from the very people I was writing about.

How do you view the future of the newspaper industry?
If you’re talking about the industry as a whole, certainly it will have to continue to evolve, recognizing that news consumers have more choices than ever before on how to get their news: websites, smartphone apps, in-car Internet devices and more. Those mediums are also being used by a lot of different kind of news organizations, from Al-Jazeera to the Huffington Post and Politico. I think this will continue to be especially tough on the international, national and regional news levels.

Community journalism, on the other hand… I have every expectation that will continue to thrive. Hometown newspapers have their markets cornered. We were hyperlocal before that was even a term. The C-I, for example, is not part of the Associated Press, so all of our news content is locally generated. We cover news from within the borders of Kershaw County and only go outside when it relates directly back to the community or is about someone from here. We are beginning to adapt in regards to delivery methods, but the bottom line is something I say often in my weekly column: we’re here to tell the story of Kershaw County.

What’s your favorite SCPA member service?
The team of Jay Bender, Bill Rogers and Jen Madden. I know, those are people not a thing, but together they provide a breadth and depth of advice whenever we need it. Whether it’s getting general help, answering a legal or ethical question (or both), if one of them doesn’t have the answer, one of the others do. I can’t imagine how any newspaper in the state can get through a month without having to talk to one of them.

Any big plans coming up?
Well, my father’s turning 70 up in Maryland in October and I can’t wait to see what my sisters come up with to celebrate (one of them is a professional event planner). Right now, though, my big thing is continuing to train both our established and newer staff members and leading them into becoming the best team of community journalists Kershaw County could ask for. Actually, they’re all naturally talented in that direction -- I’m just doing my best to guide them along.

Lawyer for S.C. Attorney General subpoenas reporter
By Corey Hutchins, Free Times
The day Republican Attorney General Alan Wilson toured South Carolina in support of better open-records laws, he was listed as a plaintiff in a broad subpoena that asks a local reporter to turn over her private notes and conversations.
A semi-retired freelancer for The Newberry Observer, Sue Summer has been writing for the paper since 1979. For the past several months she’s been virtually the only reporter chronicling a series of legal proceedings related to a controversy surrounding the estate plan of the late musician James Brown, who lived in Aiken.
In recent legal proceedings she’s covered, the attorney general’s office has blocked open-records requests from a Newberry attorney who is a former trustee of the James Brown estate.
Now, in the course of Summer’s reporting, she’s become a part of the story. And she feels the government is trying to silence her.
“They want to find out who has been providing me with information that I’ve used in my stories,” Summer says. “That’s not something that I can reveal.”
Summer has published roughly 40 stories on the case in the Observer. She also runs a Facebook page about the case and has posted documents on it.
Read the Free Times' full story here.

Editorial from The State: Making autopsies secret endangers public safety
After the controversy over a Florida newspaper’s efforts to see photographs from the autopsy of race car driver Dale Earnhardt, South Carolina joined the national rush to pass laws making such pictures private.
Two things about that action are relevant a decade later, in light of a state judge’s ruling that the autopsies themselves are “medical records,” and thus exempt from open-records laws.
First, the fact that the Legislature felt compelled to pass a law making pictures private means that lawmakers considered autopsies to be public records, required to be released under the state’s Freedom of Information Act.
Second, the Legislature intended for everything about autopsies except for photographs to remain public. This is not just logically intuitive. The bill as originally introduced exempted from public disclosure “All documents and records including, but not limited to photographs, of and incidental to the performance of an autopsy.” But the Legislature wisely narrowed the exemption to photos and added provisions to make it clear that police could see the pictures, as could a host of other people, including next of kin, criminal defendants and people bringing lawsuits.
We were never comfortable with that law. While we shared legislators’ revulsion at the idea of grisly pictures of dead bodies splashed across the front page, we also understood the wisdom of the cliche about pictures being worth a thousand words. What if someone dies in police custody and the coroner rules the death accidental? Shouldn’t someone be able to see if pictures pointed to a different cause? What about when a child dies in day care? Shouldn’t there be some circumstances under which someone could review the coroner’s ruling that the child died of natural causes?
Now multiply the danger by 10, and you get the impact of Circuit Judge Clifton Newman’s ruling that everything to do with an autopsy is private, thereby putting coroners beyond question. Because this is judicially written law, it doesn’t even have the safeguards we have for pictures. In fact, we can envision a coroner arguing that the new law trumps those safeguards.
Read the rest of The State's editorial here.

Lexington honors journalist Vickie Shealy by naming press area for her
Lexington Mayor Randy Halfacre announced at a recent council meeting that the press table in the room at the town's municipal complex would be named in honor of veteran journalist Vickie Shealy.
As a journalist for The Lexington County Chronicle and The Dispatch News, Shealy has covered countless town council meetings.
Halfacre said an engraved plaque designating it as The Vickie Shealy Media Corner would be placed at the table where reporters sit during council meetings.
Shealy retired from The Lexington County Chronicle and The Dispatch News in February.

S.C. cartoonist Mike Beckom was recently named winner of The Cartoonist Studio's Editorial Cartoon Contest. Entries came from the United States and Europe. Judges said the decision reflects the consistent quality of his work that demonstrates the highest level of professionalism and style. Mike is also the 2012 SCPA Foundation Mundy Scholar and is a student at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

Does your newspaper have news to announce in the next SCPA People & Papers section of the eBulletin? We'd love to hear from you! Email Jen Madden.

Survey: Public prefers news from professional journalists
The public’s trust in the institution of the press may be fading, and digital platforms have opened the publishing world to anyone with a desire to speak, but it seems professional journalists themselves are not seen as obsolete.
More than 60 percent of U.S. adults say they “prefer news stories produced by professional journalists,” and more than 70 percent agree that “professional journalists play an important role in our society,” according to new survey data from the Reynolds Journalism Institute.

How should newspapers respond to criticism on their Facebook page?
What would you do if someone came to your Facebook wall and started writing mean things about you or your work? You'd probably de-friend them, or at least delete the comments. But is that the way a news organization should respond? Does it matter that the industry is built on the very foundation of giving everyone a voice and space to share their opinions?
This question came up this week when the editor of the Hanford Sentinel posted this on the organization's Facebook wall:
Media Bistro's 10,000 words has some tips.

Pew study: different media skew campaign coverage differently; most balanced: newspapers
A new study of news coverage by mainstream media, released by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, confirms what everyone pretty much has assumed for a while regarding campaign coverage of President Barack Obama or Republican challenger Mitt Romney:
“Portrayal in the news media of the character and records of the two presidential contenders in 2012 has been as negative as any campaign in recent times,” the project reports.
But then there’s this: “Neither candidate has enjoyed an advantage over the other.”
As it has done in the previous three presidential campaigns, the Pew project set out to study news reports on presidential campaigns in a few dozen select media to see how much of the coverage could be characterized as positive and how much negative.
The study pored over reports from May 29 through August 5 and also found this non-surprise: whether the candidates are most likely portrayed positively or negatively depends on the news medium.
And this: the most balanced of all news media, including online media, are newspapers.
Overall: Pew found news reports on Obama were 28 percent positive and 72 percent negative. For Romney, the references were 29 percent positive and 71 percent negative.

More Advance newspapers switch to 3-day a week publication schedule

Advance newspapers in Harrisburg, Pa., and Syracuse, N.Y., announced earlier this week they will switch to a three-days-a-week publication schedule in January as their corporate owner continues its shift away from daily printed papers.
At the Post-Standard of Syracuse, editor and publisher Stephen Rogers told employees that newspapers' economic model has become unviable. The Post-Standard will publish on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.
The two newspapers are owned by Advance Publications Inc. Four other Advance newspapers, The Times-Picayune of New Orleans and the three largest papers in Alabama, said in June that they were switching to three-times-a-week publication. Those changes were accompanied by hundreds of layoffs.

No room for slow news days with a well-planned editorial calendar
We're in the dog days of summer, which often are accompanied by a slowdown in news. More than a few editors likely are challenged to generate substantive content. It's time to turn to your editorial calendars. You don't have one? There's no time like the present to begin drafting. In simplest terms, an editorial calendar shows the major editorial features planned for forthcoming editions. The content, typically outlined for the next 12 months, can be a useful tool for news and advertising departments. The calendars should be fluid and updated regularly. read


Newsrooms growing a pair?
For many years, press critics have been decrying the he said, she said, "view from nowhere" tendencies of journalism. There have been multiple calls for journalists to ferret out "the truth" and make some judgment calls about the weight to give various claims.
(Of course, that's also given journalism's critics more ammo to scream "bias.")
So it's interesting to me to see two examples from the past few days where newsrooms seem to have grown some cojones. In one of Fisher's examples, The State corrects Gov. Haley's errors in "The Buzz," its sometimes – nay, frequently – irreverent look at S.C. politics.


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