|Our political culture and the FOIA
Dr. Walter Edgar in his epic South Carolina: A History explains South Carolina's political culture by noting that the early colonists came from Barbados where a small white minority had controlled a much larger enslaved African population.
That top-down culture was characteristic of the plantation era in South Carolina and I believe imported directly into the mill village culture where it continued to flourish even as the cotton mills were being shipped overseas.
A thin veneer of elites controlled society in almost all aspects and influenced greatly the political and policy choices to be made by the rest of us. Our election system was designed to perpetuate the influence of the elites by a device known as the "full slate law."
Under the full slate scheme if there were 11 seats in the House of Representatives on the Richland County ballot, a voter would need to vote for 11 candidates in order for the ballot to count. Even the most dedicated voter found it difficult to make knowledgeable selections for 11 vacancies plus the other races on the ballot so the political class would circulate "tickets" indicating the anointed candidates for whom votes were to be cast.
The effect of this system was that minorities never won an election and the General Assembly remained all white, as it had been from shortly after federal troops left the state at the end of Reconstruction. The General Assembly was for years in addition to being all white, all male.
From this group of white guys trial court judges were selected and appointed. From the white guys on the trial bench Supreme Court Justices were selected.
In 1975 one of the first cases arising under the then brand new Freedom of Information Act was tried before retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Joseph Moss sitting as a Circuit Court Judge. The plaintiffs were Richland County school teachers who sued to gain access to school board meetings where the school district's annual budget was being decided behind closed doors. Justice Moss stated from the bench that he couldn't believe that the General Assembly intended for citizens to be able to learn of the terms of the budget until it had been adopted and released publicly. The court ruled against the teachers.
Ad sales basics workshop set Jan. 17
New sales people on staff? Help them get started with the essentials of ad sales at SCPA's popular quarterly ad sales basics workshop! We hope you'll join us Jan. 17, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at SCPA Offices in Columbia. This event is designed for newspaper ad sales employees with less than a year's experience.
Alanna Ritchie, advertising director for the South Carolina Newspaper Network, will conduct this full-day workshop. A veteran of weekly and daily newspaper sales, Ritchie will help attendees understand sales basics, including selling against competition, dealing with objections, closing skills, basic design and consultative selling.
Join SCPA as we cover the basics of advertising sales and get your revenue-producing staff off to a great start!
Lunch will be provided. Attendees will also receive the Ad Basics notebook, which contains a wealth of helpful information that Ritchie has collected over the years. The cost is $45.
Register today! Space is limited to the first 18 people.
Haley administration won’t release full report on hacking
By Stephen Largen, The Post and Courier
COLUMBIA — Gov. Nikki Haley’s administration will not publicly release a previously undisclosed, more-detailed report on how a hacker breached the S.C. Department of Revenue, affecting sensitive information for millions of taxpayers.
State lawmakers reached by The Post and Courier this week said they were never informed of the existence of the report by the administration.
Those legislators and an attorney for the S.C. Press Association said the report, or at least most of it, needs to be released to the public.
Press Association attorney Jay Bender, an expert on the state’s Freedom of Information Act, said the law does not allow the Revenue Department to not release the report at all.
He said the agency can redact sensitive information on security, but must release the rest of the report.
“The only thing that’s not a public record is (information related to) security plans and devices,” Bender said. “The rest of the information must be made public.”
The report is being produced by Mandiant, the cyber security firm the state is paying $700,000 to investigate the breach.
The report is “confidential,” and the shorter version of the report released to the public last month “included every piece of information Mandiant determined would not create new or further security risks,” said Samantha Cheek, a spokeswoman for the Revenue Department.
The Revenue Department argued that the report must not be made public, citing a section of state law that says, “Information relating to security plans and devices proposed, adopted, installed, or utilized by a public body, other than amounts expended for adoption, implementation, or installation of these plans and devices, is required to be closed to the public and is not considered to be made open to the public under the provisions of this act.”.
Greenwood School District 50 denies another FOIA request
By Scott J. Bryan, Index-Journal
Sixty days and 41 business days after a Freedom of Information Act request was filed with Greenwood District 50, superintendent Darrell Johnson denied access to emails and complaints about an employee’s resignation.
On Oct. 2, the Index-Journal reported Emerald volleyball coach Gina Sargent resigned her coaching position. When asked if she resigned or was fired, Sargent told an Index-Journal reporter, “It was a little bit of both.”
Sargent said parents’ complaints were the reason she resigned. She also said race played a factor.
“I mean they only saw skin color from the day I walked in, so they went with that,” Sargent said.
The Index-Journal filed a FOIA request Oct. 2 requesting Sargent’s personnel file, complaints made against Sargent since July 2012 and emails from a variety of District 50 personnel, including Johnson, assistant superintendents and Emerald officials.
On Oct. 12, Johnson denied access to Sargent’s personnel file, but said a search for emails would “require a significant amount of time to gather and examine before releasing.”
But Tuesday, District 50 reversed course and waived fees. But Johnson, in a two-page letter, said the district office will not provide the emails.
“I have reviewed the available emails, and all of them are covered by the FOIA’s ‘personal privacy’ exemption,” Johnson wrote. “Therefore, in the interest of protecting Ms. Sargent’s privacy rights, the District is denying your request and will not provide you copies of the requested emails.”
Jay Bender, the South Carolina Press Association’s attorney and a noted FOIA expert, said Johnson’s denial is typical of public officials.
“That’s nonsense,” Bender said. “That’s typical of the arrogance of public officials that they know better than the people they work for to decide what the people should see.
“We will continue to have such arrogance until the people in South Carolina say enough is enough. There is no personal privacy in public employment.”
Editorial: Keeping public posted on Rivers High School
The Post and Courier
The ongoing debate over how best to use the former Rivers High School is a matter of intense public interest, and the public should be kept in the loop every step of the way.
Unfortunately that didn’t happen last week when the Charleston County school officials took members of the school board on a tour of Rivers, now occupied by the Charleston Charter School for Math & Science.
Because the tour was attended by six board members, it clearly violated the state’s Freedom of Information Act.
Under the FOIA, there has to be public notification if there is a quorum of the school board in attendance, even if it’s not a regular meeting of the board.
School district attorney John Emerson told our reporter that a quorum hadn’t been expected for the tour.
“That was not the plan,” he said.
In matters involving the board, a quorum should really not be the determining factor in involving the public. If it’s a board function, it should be public — whether district officials expect a quorum or not.
The board should insist on it, recognizing that its responsibility is to represent the public in making school policy.
Jay Bender, attorney for the S.C. Press Association, notes that chance meetings and social events cannot be used to circumvent the FOIA law. But the tour of Rivers was neither chance nor social. It was a district-sponsored event related to an issue that has generated extensive debate between advocates of the charter school and those who want the district to stick with its plan to have a new school, Low Country Tech, share the campus.
SCPA hires USC graduate as executive assistant
Jarad Greene, a native of Lutz, Fla., has been hired full time by the Press Association as executive assistant.
Greene was hired part-time last December to assist with contest sorting, meeting registrations and other office tasks. In addition to handling those tasks, he will also take over more Web and database projects, mailings and handling press credentials. He will also handle many of Lacey Breit's advertising coordination duties while she is out on maternity leave in a few months.
"Jarad has worked with us for the past year and we have really been impressed with his skills and attitude," said SCPA Executive Director Bill Rogers. "We look forward to having him on board full time."
He graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2011, where he studied Criminology, Theatre and Public Relations. During his time at USC, Jarad worked for the South Carolina Scholastic Press Association and the Southern Interscholastic Press Association, helping to further the education of student journalists.
As an award-winning cartoonist, his works appeared in newspapers, newsletters, and magazines throughout the Southeast (and even once in a Chicago museum). Jarad is also a graduate of The Poynter Institute High School Journalism Program.
Nominate your paper, send Editor & Publisher your ideas
E&P's March issue will profile what we have long labeled "10 newspapers That Do It Right." Never meant to be a "10 Best" list, instead it spotlights select newspapers that have earned a notable achievement in at least one particular area, carried out a successful innovation, implemented cost savings procedures or developed programs that have generated revenues or increased circulation. This year they'll also be including ideas, strategies and tactics which individuals have knocking around in their attics — whether or not they have been implemented or tested.
The objective of the story is to bring ideas together and share the best and the brightest in one comprehensive feature. All ideas are welcome. Submit Your Entry Now
Why journalists should explore the business side of news
By Matt Thompson, Poynter
Most of us still remember a time when revenue was enough of an incidental byproduct of journalism that journalists could ignore it almost completely. We just did our jobs, and then — somehow — money happened.
This was the state of affairs for long enough that a lot of us grew up thinking it was some sort of law of physics. That's how it's supposed to be, right? We journalists take care of the audience-building part, and overnight, the magic gnomes deposit money in our stockings?
If that's the case, the gnomes are failing us. How many recent journalism projects have successfully found an audience and proven their worth only to founder without a working revenue strategy? I won't pretend it's a new argument to say journalists should take at least an interest in the revenue foundations for their work. But it doesn't get said nearly often enough. Those of us who care most about doing journalism have to take some responsibility for how that work is supported.
Journalists are infamously change-resistant, lack savvy in business and numbers, and are bound by ethical strictures that prevent them from involvement in revenue matters. What role can they possibly play in developing support for their work? To figure it out, let's address each of these elements in turn.
FACTS: Getting them right saves 23 papers
One who assumes financial responsibility for; guarantee against failure. To insure against losses.
Hardly a day goes by that I don't get a call or message from people, telling me how something I wrote changed their businesses, lives or both.
Such was the case last week, when my phone vibrated as I strolled through the aisles of my favorite department store.
The call was from a director of a major underwriting firm. When I say, "major," I mean one of the big ones. So big, in fact, that her company was the underwriter for the very store in which I was strolling.
For some reason that I don't fully understand, I get a lot of calls from people who run very big companies. They read something I write, or hear me speak at a convention, and they feel the urge to contact me for advice, or just to tell me how something I wrote or said affected them. Maybe someday I'll figure out how to translate all these contacts into clients … but that's a topic for another day. The topic for today relates to this phone call.
"You know," she said, "your name came up in a board meeting today."
Nothing amazes me anymore, but I still feign surprise when I hear something like this.
"Really?" I replied with as much sincerity as possible, "Why would my name come up in a meeting of a major financial firm?"
|How to work with ad agencies
With experience on both the ad agency and media sides of the business, I've learned some lessons about relationships between the two.
There are often clashes between agencies and the media. In most case, the friction between these two key players in the marketing world comes down to two things: control and money. Both want more control of advertisers' media placement decisions. And both are in business to make money.
Friction doesn't help either side. And it certainly doesn't help advertisers.
Here are a few things that media representatives can do to strengthen relationships with ad agencies:
1. Encourage open communication all around. No doubt, things are simpler when the media can communicate directly with a local advertiser. But once that advertiser employs an ad agency, things change.
An ad agency is a lot like a sports agent. Just like an athlete does not deal alone with a team, an ad agency's client wants the agency to be part of discussions with the media.
Work to build rapport with the agency. Keep them in the loop. After all, you have the same goal: to generate customers for the advertiser.
Dec. 6: Daily Publishers' Roundtable, SCPA Offices, Columbia
Dec. 7: News Contest Deadline; Rules, tags and forms available here
Dec. 7: S.C. Journalism Hall of Fame Nomination Deadline
Dec. 7: Webinar: Will Paywalls Kill Newspapers' Web Advertising?
Dec. 21: Collegiate Contest Deadline' Rules, tags and forms available here
Jan. 3, 2013: Legislative Workshop for the Media, S.C. Statehouse
Jan. 11: Weekly Publishers' Roundtable, SCPA Offices, Columbia
Jan. 16: Webinar: Classified Outbound Calling, Revenue That Sticks!
Jan. 17: Ad Basics, SCPA Offices, Columbia
Jan. 18: SCPA Foundation Internship and Scholarship application deadline
Feb. 14: Ed Henninger workshop on updating your newspaper's design, SCPA Offices, Columbia
March 22-24, 2013: SCPA Annual Meeting and Awards Presentation, The Westin Poinsett Hotel, Greenville