News Contest period ends, deadline to enter Dec. 2

Tuesday marked the end of the 2011 SCPA News Contest period! Now is the time to gather you best work from Nov. 8, 2010, through Nov. 7, 2011, and submit entries for the contest.

Download updated rules, entry forms and tags for your newspaper.

The deadline to enter is less than a month away! Dec. 2 will be here before you know it, so start collecting your entries today. If you have any questions about the rules, email Jen or Bill.

We're also blogging about the contest -- frequently asked questions, rules clarification and other contest-related topics.

The annual News Contest recognizes the Palmetto State's best writers, editors, designers, photographers and Web production staffers, and the impact they have made in our communities.

Awards will be presented at SCPA's Annual Meeting on March 17, 2011, at the Tides hotel on Folly Beach.

Sumter reporter proposes to girlfriend in the newspaper
“I’d like to tell you about someone very close to my heart,” writes Sumter Item staff reporter Nick McCormac at the beginning of a column published earlier this week. ”I promise you, it’s worth your time to read through to the end.”

After describing how he and his girlfriend met and became inseparable, he writes, “Words are my profession. They’re my living. My job is to take the most complex, complicated and confusing situations and describe them in a concise and simplistic manner. … No matter what I do or what I say, no words could ever justifiably describe how I feel about you. But there are six words that come awfully close. Whitney Bragg, will you marry me?”

She said yes.

McCormac said he thought the proposal would be something he can keep for a very long time and something he can show his friends and family.

Editor, S.C. United Methodist Advocate newspaper
What do you like best about your job? 
As editor of a two-person staff, I get to wear a lot of hats, which can be fun and challenging (and I adore a challenge). In the span of one week, you’ll find me writing (my favorite thing to do), as well as photographing events, plotting the news budget, selling ads, doing a speaking engagement, updating and redesigning the website, tweaking newspaper design, crafting a circulation-growth or marketing plan, paginating, Facebooking, you name it. It never gets old. Plus, being that the Advocate is a religious paper, I get the added bonus of knowing what I am doing is also helping my faith.

What would you say is your proudest moment from your career in the newspaper industry?
I love that what I am doing has the potential to make a difference in people’s lives and, in some cases, help “save the day.” Two nice examples come to mind: doing an article on a community daycare about to close, running that article on the front page with compelling photos, then learning that because of the awareness my article brought, county commissioners and other individuals were able to come up with a plan to save that daycare. Another time, I wrote an article that revealed a convicted sex offender (in one town) was now teaching karate to young children (in a new town), and outraged parents read the article, did their homework and ousted him. Awareness can prompt change, and often, it helps others.

How do you view the future of the newspaper industry?
I am confident about the newspaper industry, particularly in niche markets and in small communities. People appreciate holding a newspaper in their hands and being able to trust what they read, knowing that newspapers are watchdogs for the public good.

What’s your favorite SCPA member service? 
I love the workshops and knowing SCPA is always there for me, ready to help, no matter my question.

Any big plans coming up?
The Advocate is skyrocketing -- really expanding its reach and its coverage, and we’re excited about that. Personally, I’m finishing up my novel, which I hope to shop around next year. Life is good!

industry news

S.C. attorney general intervenes in FOI case
SCPA has written a letter of support to Attorney General Alan Wilson in response to his taking a strong stand on an important case regarding the constitutionality of the FOIA. SCPA Executive Director Bill Rogers said Wilson was on target in intervening in the case of the Lowcountry radio host seeking information through the FOIA about spending by the S.C. Association of School Administrators.
An S.C. circuit court judge recently ruled that the SCASA was a public body, but that it was not required to comply with the FOIA.
“The First Amendment encompasses the right not to speak publicly,”Judge G. Thomas Cooper said in his ruling.
Wilson could have filed a “friend of the court” brief but his decision to intervene on behalf of the FOIA is a much stronger rebuke of the Circuit Court ruling.

S.C. election agency withholds ID list
The S.C. Election Commission is seeking the attorney general's opinion on whether it must immediately release a list of voters who lack state-issued driver's licenses or ID cards required by a new law.
Agency spokesman Christ Whitmire refused to release the names of nearly 217,000 active voters who lack that photo identification. He said it's unclear whether the list must be released while the U.S. Justice Department reviews parts of the law.
The Justice Department has spent months reviewing the law.
The law says the "list must be made available to any registered voter upon request." It also allows the Election Commission to charge a fee for the list to cover the cost of creating it.
SCPA Attorney Jay Bender said nothing in the FOIA allows the agency to wait for the Justice Department to approve the law before releasing records.
"Well that's just absurd," Bender said. "It's a South Carolina record, it's a public record and the law requires it to be released upon a written request."
"If we release it to you, we've got to release it to everybody," Whitmire told a reporter.

Citadel refuses to release complaint info
The Citadel is refusing to release documents and detailed information concerning a complaint filed against a former camp counselor now facing multiple molestation charges. School officials told The Post and Courier that the complaint did not concern physical contact, but they have refused to provide specifics about the incident, which reportedly occurred in 2002.
Earlier this week, the Post and Courier filed an FOI request for paperwork concerning the incident and the resulting school investigation.
SCPA attorney Jay Bender said the records are clearly a matter of public record.
"Out of deference to the family and because of the ongoing investigation, we respectfully decline to expand on the statement we provided," Charlene Gunnells, The Citadel's media relations coordinator, said in an email.
But Bender said neither reason is sufficient to withhold public documents, particularly if the investigation is being handled by another jurisdiction.
"They are just making that up," he said. "The Citadel has no leg to stand on in claiming this touches on an investigation by someone else. Even if it were their own investigation, that would not be sufficient."

Winnsboro Town Council shuts out public through executive session
The Herald-Independent in Winnsboro reported that the Winnsboro Town Council met in executive session two weeks ago about an update regarding the refurbishment of a historic school building. The council's reason was to discuss a “legal and contractual” matter.
On contractual issues, the FOIA is clear -- negotiations pursuant to a contract may be made in private, but once a contract has been entered into, the matter is public and should be discussed that way.
The agreement between the refurbishment company and the Town of Winnsboro was reached in December of 2009.
"Any subsequent discussion of the matter should therefore be held in the open," Herald-Indpendent Editor James Denton wrote in an editorial to readers. "For the Town to do otherwise not only violates the letter of the law, it is also bad practice; it is the kind of thing that makes people distrust and resent their governments (see also, the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street)."

Hanahan excludes public in hiring police chief

The Post and Courier reported that last week in Hanahan, city staff narrowed a group of police chief applicants from 10 to six at a council workshop last week. Candidate interviews are set for this week, with a possible council vote immediately after the last interview. The public has not been involved in the process.
State law requires public bodies to release the names of "not fewer than three" final candidates. The law also requires a public vote on reducing the number of candidates.
"Narrowing of the field, unless it was on the agenda, unless it was subject to a public vote -- the narrowing would be illegal," SCPA Attorney Jay Bender said.
"The foolishness of doing it in secret is that you cut the public out of the process and you diminish the public's confidence that the hiring was done appropriately," Bender said. It also doesn't give the public the chance to interact with the candidates, and give public input.

industry news

A national nonprofit center that recognizes coverage of children and family issues honored Sun News columnist Issac Bailey at an awards ceremony in Washington D.C. Bailey was one of 14 winners to receive a Casey Medal from the Journalism Center on Children & Families, nonprofit program of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, College Park. Bailey was one of two journalists honored in the Opinion category, competing against submissions from news organizations of all sizes. His entry was a six-part series that explored flaws in the interstate child protection laws through the lens of an Horry County father’s harrowing, but ultimately successful, quest to regain custody of his daughter after the then-3-year-old was found wandering in a diaper and T-shirt on a busy highway in New York state.

Mikayla Sharpe of Seneca has joined The Journal staff as a day paginator and proofreader. Born and raised in Walhalla, Sharpe attended the University of South Carolina and graduated magna cum laude in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication.

industry news

What happens when a community loses its newspaper?
After publishing for 110 years, the Holyoke (Mass.)Transcript-Telegram went out of business and left the community of 30,000 without a daily newspaper. That was in 1993. “In Holyoke babies have been born, raised and sent off to college or war or other adult responsibilities without ever seeing their names in a T-T article taped to a refrigerator,” writes former Miami Herald and Boston Globe editor Thomas Fiedler. “Congressmen, mayors, and city councilors have been elected, served, and retired without knowing a hometown daily’s beat reporter.”
Journalist David Reid tells Fiedler that only rarely now does any reporter attend a Holyoke government meeting. “And when no reporters go to these meetings, or on a daily basis ask questions of city officials, government can operate in the dark,” Reid says. “The citizens are not informed and they don’t know how to make decisions.”

Reporters detained, arrested across the country in "Occupy" protests
A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel photographer is the latest journalist to be arrested while covering the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations that have sprung up across the nation, raising questions about how police should define and handle reporters documenting the protests. Although the detentions and arrests have raised alarm with some media organizations, police contend that it is often difficult to separate the journalists covering the events from those participating in the protests, especially when making mass apprehensions. Perhaps garnering the most attention are the reporters who have been arrested at the original Occupy Wall Street protest in New York, where some journalists had voiced concern over being arrested or roughed up by police. Many journalists are just temporarily detained, while others are charged with offenses such as disorderly conduct or unlawful assembly.

Publishers need to focus on Facebook
Facebook is perhaps the most disruptive of the many powerful forces to rock the traditional media since the Internet burst into the common consciousness in the mid-1990s. Facebook now claims 750 million “active” users around the globe and attracts nearly 1 billion page views per month. In mid-2010, Facebook surpassed Google as the most-visited site on the web, according to the Quantcast analytics service. The objective proof of Facebook’s emotional pull is that it is, by far, the stickiest site on the Web. Visits to Facebook average 26 minutes per session. By contrast, the average visit at newspaper websites is about 3.5 minutes per session, according to the Newspaper Association of America. If you add together all the visits to all the newspaper websites in the United States in a given month, the total is barely 10% of Facebook’s traffic. Although the bad news is that Facebook has the capability to divert readers and advertisers away from newspapers and other traditional media, the good news is that this new format is still young enough and malleable enough to allow traditional media companies to elbow into the action to leverage the medium to their own advantage.

How Adobe's abandonment of Flash for mobile devices impacts news orgs
With mobile a growing part of news organizations' traffic, Jason Perlow at ZDNet broke a pretty big story: Adobe is abandoning development of the mobile version of Flash Player. The Neiman Journalism Lab is the time to commit to HTML5 for video. Adobe's announcement doesn’t mean Flash is going away -- its player for PCs and Macs will still be developed. But it does mean that any web publisher who was holding out for (a) Flash for mobile to get a whole lot better and (b) Apple to realize the error of its ways can now officially abandon hope. That means adopting alternatives. What's the impact for news organizations? For their websites, Flash has had three primary uses: video, interactive graphics, and ads.

Nature writing contest submissions being accepted
The Southern Environmental Law Center is now accepting submissions for the annual Phillip D. Reed Memorial Award for Outstanding Writing on the Southern Environment.  The award seeks to enhance public awareness of the value and vulnerability of the region's natural heritage by giving special recognition to writers who most effectively tell the stories about the South's environment.  A cash prize of $1,000 will be awarded. The deadline to apply is Jan. 13, 2012.

News developers worried about new cost to use Google Maps
Google will start charging for use of the Google Maps API after Jan. 1. For basic maps, Google will allow 25,000 uses of the API free per day (9.125 million a year). That drops to 2,500 per day (912,500 a year) for maps that use custom styles. Above that, Google will start charging by the use or try to sell an “enterprise” license.

AbitibiBowater announces improved operating earnings for third consecutive quarter
AbitibiBowater Inc. reported a net loss of $44 million for the third quarter of 2011, or $(0.46) per share, on sales of $1.2 billion. This compares with a net loss of $829 million, or $(14.35) per share, on sales of $1.2 billion in the third quarter of 2010. The newsprint segment generated operating income of $18 million in the third quarter, an $8 million decrease from the second quarter. Quarter over quarter sales increased by 9,100 metric tons and the average transaction price remained the same, but average operating costs increased by $13 per metric ton, primarily as a result of a $9 million energy benefit that was recorded in the second quarter on the implementation of an Ontario power program.

Mayoral contender sees bias in Calif. newspaper's ad rules
In a contentious mayoral race, The Vallejo (Calif.)Times-Herald wound up on its own front page last week when it reported on a news conference called by Joanne Schivley, a challenger to Mayor Osby Davis, accusing the paper of bias in its editorial and business practices. The paper adopted a policy that requires candidates to verify the factual content in campaign ads. Publisher Jim Gleim said the policy let “candidates know they’re going to be under some sort of scrutiny,” and added, “It certainly cuts down on the noise -- the mudslinging.”
This month the paper rejected an ad from Schivley that included voting records of city council members and Davis. Although she offered citations for her information, the policy requires “documentation that shows examples of the voting record or public record.” Schivley said she was told to provide copies of the minutes for the meetings and votes, along with related city contracts -- more than 20 sets of documents. Schivley said compiling the documents would be too time-consuming and unnecessary, since the paper had reported the votes she referenced in the ad. Although the paper’s policy applies to all candidates, Schivley said she felt singled out and said the incident was simply the latest slight by the newspaper.

'Find thinkers who will challenge you' and more advice for newspaper editors
When John Robinson, longtime editor of the News & Record in Greensboro, North Carolina, announced his resignation from the paper, the news brought accolades.
Though the News & Record is often referred to as a “community newspaper,” it’s actually just large enough that the “community” side of its identity isn’t necessarily implicit. It can easily fall prey to the challenges that larger papers face: detached journalists, institutional walls, and the like. For Robinson, community engagement hasn’t been a given so much as a strategy. And while he’s been influenced in his approaches by new media thinkers like Rosen, he’s applied their advice to the place where it can be most effective: the trenches of daily newspapering. Read Robinson's thoughts on the state of the industry and to see what advice he has to offer for the News & Record’s next editor -- and for news editors more broadly.

columns

Before and after advertising
If you have an advertiser who needs a fresh idea, consider a before-and-after approach. A typical before-and-after ad features two photographs. The one on the left shows the old situation, and the one on the right shows the new -- and noticeably improved -- situation. Although this type of advertising has been around for a long time, don't make the mistake of thinking that it has outlived its usefulness. Properly executed, it can provide readers with dramatic reasons to do business with an advertiser. Before-and-after advertising relies heavily on three factors that boost effectiveness: (1) relevant photography, (2) simplified communication, and (3) clearly stated benefits. read

25 ways to use Facebook, Twitter & Storify to improve political coverage
Social media has become a powerful tool for journalists covering elections. It's given journalists a way to see how politicians and campaign staffers are interacting with voters and sharing news. And it's helped them find local voters and get a better sense of what their audience wants in election coverage. As the Republican primary season intensifies, here are 25 tips on how journalists can use Facebook, Twitter, Storify, Google, LinkedIn and other tools to improve coverage leading up to -- and on -- Election Day.read

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