Index-Journal wins FOI suit against
Dept. of Public Safety
By Russell Cox, Index-Journal
The S.C. Department of Public Safety has been ordered to release documents relating to the 2010 arrest of a Greenwood City Council member, following a successful Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the Index-Journal.
In the summary judgment, Judge James Barber of the Fifth Judicial Circuit also permanently enjoined the agency from asserting there exists an ongoing investigation as the reason for withholding records, a decision which the S.C. Press Association and the newspaper’s editor hailed as a victory for transparency in the state’s law enforcement.
The Index-Journal filed the suit after the DPS denied the newspaper’s FOIA request for materials on the fall 2010 DUI arrest of Councilwoman Niki Hutto, citing impending criminal charges and Hutto’s request for a jury trial as exemptions from the law.
The criminal charges against Hutto are still pending, according to Deputy Solicitor Andrew Hodges of the Eighth Judicial Circuit. Hutto proclaimed her innocence in a statement to the Index-Journal immediately after the initial report.
Judge Barber further enjoined the DPS from asserting exemptions under a portion of the law that allows for information to be withheld temporarily to prevent harm to a prospective law enforcement action.
This would only be allowed, he wrote, if the agency could “in good faith” claim releasing information would create harm within the scope of an existing ruling by the S.C. Supreme Court. That ruling identified potential harms such as “the release of a crime suspect’s name before arrest,” or “the location of an upcoming sting operation,” but not, as Barber noted, pre-trial publicity.
Barber’s judgment identified as public documents all materials originally requested, which includes incident reports, arrest warrant affidavits and the in-car video, and indicated their release is required by law.
|SC News Exchange site features healthy cooking column
We are now featuring a S.C. food writer with regular columns and photos on our SC News Exchange site.
Her recipes are down-home Southern cooking, but she has adapted them to make them a little heathier... but still tasty.
Her name is May Vokaty and she is the food editor of The Voice in Blythewood. She grew up in Mississippi and worked in health care for 15 years... and she has been cooking since she got an Easy Bake oven at age 6. We will typically post her column and pictures on Fridays, but this week's entry on holiday breakfast is already up. There is also a column from last week on savory sides.
Remember we still have a weekly NASCAR column, regular editorial cartoons and a political column. We also have many feature and news stories of statewide interest that you might want to use. Please check it regularly and use what you can.
NNA asks SCPA members to design convention logo
The National Newspaper Association will be coming to Charleston for its 126th Annual Convention & Trade Show October 4-7, 2012.
NNA needs SCPA members to help create a logo for all convention promotional literature. The winning designer will receive a $100 stipend.
The winning design will be highlighted in Publishers' Auxiliary, NNA's official print publication, with a short bio of the designer.
The planning committee met in November and came up with some key words that could be used in a theme for this convention which are: Value of Newspapers to Civics & Democracy, We are the Press & We have a Purpose, High Value in the Lowcountry, Preserving Democracy, Press in the Palmetto, Press, Power, Purpose.
The logo designs should include the theme and following information/or be able to accommodate it to the side or below the logo:
- Key Phrase/Logo
- National Newspaper Association
- 126th Annual Convention & Trade Show
- Embassy Suites North Charleston Airport
The logo is used on both 8 ½ x 11 and 4.25 x 9 inch pocket program. Here is a link to several past designs.
The deadline for submissions is Jan. 10, 2012. Email your entry to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, NNA asks you to save the date, Oct. 4-7, 2012. The NNA member rate will be extended to all SCPA members. Registration information will be available in May.
The Cherokee Chronicle, Gaffney
What do you like best about your job?
I like people. That’s why this job is so much fun. I think every good newspaperman is a little leader, a little follower, a little arrogant, a little meek, a little best friend, a little antagonist, a little publicity chairman, a little pimp, a little prostitute, a little lawyer, a little psychiatrist, a little cop, a little politician, and a little nosy. Rotary meetings are wonderful, but it’s the bar at the lodge hall or the morning coffee shop where you find the people who are buying your newspaper.
I also like getting in all the Gaffney games free.
What would you say is your proudest moment in the newspaper business?
I’ve worked for both, and I think it’s considerably more difficult to honestly inform your readership in a hometown paper when the subject matter often involves your lifelong friends, your child’s teacher, or your neighbor’s family. I think to be called “fair” is just about the best compliment any reporter can hope to achieve, whether it comes from some award or from a simple pat on the back from a reader.
In addition, I must say that getting a paycheck every Friday for the past 46 years - the last 20 working for myself - qualifies as a great source of pride for me in the newspaper business!
How do you view the future of the newspaper industry?
I am not afflicted with the Chicken Little Syndrome. I might be naïve, but I think that as long as we are committed to our jobs, and do them honestly, our great industry will be fine. Sure, we need to evolve and make ourselves more accessible, but the basic product must remain the same.
Think about it, your newspaper has zero calories, no trans fat, doesn’t cause diarrhea or shortness of breath, and is cheap as hell. And you sure can’t wrap fish in a computer. What a product we have!
What’s your favorite SCPA member service?
I enjoy the Roundtables with others facing similar problems and opportunities. Also, I think the annual writing contests are a great benefit because they not only serve to motivate the staff, they’re also a legitimate excuse to spend the weekend in Columbia.
Any big plans coming up?
I have a book coming out soon, a compilation of my favorite columns - but I’ll be sure and let you all know about it at the appropriate time. I’m also planning on drawing my Social Security checks for as many years as I paid into it. Unless, of course, the Mayan Indians are right.
Criminal file in death penalty case will stay open
The State recently reported that a state judge said Fifth Circuit solicitor can’t make secret the entire contents of the criminal file in a death penalty case.
Instead, the documents that defense lawyers think shouldn’t be aired in public will be submitted to a judge for review to see whether some or all should be kept secret, Judge Thomas Cooper Jr. ruled in a hearing at the Richland County courthouse.
Cooper made his ruling after hearing an argument from SCPA Attorney Jay Bender. Bender argued that the U.S. Constitution, the state Constitution and decisions by the S.C. Supreme Court make it clear that criminal cases should be conducted in public view.
Cooper allowed Bender to intervene in the case as an interested third party seeking to explain why records in this ongoing criminal case should remain open to the public.
“Our Supreme Court has made clear in its decisions that it doesn’t like secrecy in the S.C. court system,” Bender said after the hearing. “The public only has confidence that the court system works when the public can observe the process. If the doors are closed, you always have a concern there’s misconduct. If the doors are open, you can be assured the rules are applied even-handedly.”
Anderson leaders withholding email
City leaders in Anderson are withholding an email that details the police department’s handling of the death of an Anderson University basketball player, the Independent Mail reported this week. The city says it is withholding the email because it is part of an investigation that involves the Anderson Police Department and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
SCPA Attorney Jay Bender said documents provided to an entire city council are not exempt from the public-records law just because an investigation is occurring.
“First of all, it’s not up to the city council to claim an exemption on behalf of the DEA,” Bender said. “If it’s a public record in the possession of the city of Anderson, the city can’t claim DEA as a reason not to provide the record.
Second, the law says that a record isn’t exempt just because of an ongoing investigation. The courts just ruled that the Highway Patrol couldn’t withhold public information just because an investigation is under way.
“The city’s attempt to withhold an email that has been shared with the city council is just another example of a public body trying to make up an exemption to keep from revealing information that isn’t secret in the first place,” Bender said. “When you disseminate a document to city council members, it is no longer a secret memo.”
That ‘public’ information will cost you $497,712.31
According to The State newspaper, Sen. Phil , Leventis, D-Sumter, requested documents from the state Department of Education, including personnel policies, contracts and the activities of Superintendent of Education Mick Zais.
Leventis was told it would cost the Education Department $497,712.31 to gather the information and make copies.
The department would have to swallow the six-figure cost since lawmakers can get public documents free of charge, according to state law. Leventis subsequently revised his request to just Zais’ calendar.
Leventis said his request would have provided much-needed insight into the workings of the department under its new leader.
Newspapers face decision on adult domain names
Newspapers with websites have a potentially expensive decision to make -- whether to pay hundreds of dollars to protect their brand names from being compromised by inadvertent association with adult themed websites.
The dilemma has been spurred by the decision of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to open up a domain specifically for adult web addresses. For full story, click here.
Mobile traffic to newspaper websites increases 65% in past year
Newspaper publishers increased page views to their mobile content by 65 percent on average in September compared to the same month one year ago, according to the Newspaper Association of America. Many newspapers reported triple-digit page view increases to their mobile sites and apps, demonstrating that newspaper content remains a leading choice for consumers across their multiplatform offerings. NAA’s analysis is based on traffic figures for more than 20 newspaper media companies - large and small, public and private - that supplied year-over-year internal measurements of mobile page view traffic and unique visitors from September 2010 and September 2011. Unique visitor count increases ranged as high as 200 percent, with an average increase of about 70 percent for the publishers reporting.
Postal cuts to slow delivery of first-class mail
Facing bankruptcy, the U.S. Postal Service is pushing ahead with unprecedented cuts to first-class mail next spring that will slow delivery and, for the first time in 40 years, eliminate the chance for stamped letters to arrive the next day.
The changes would provide short-term relief, but ultimately could prove counterproductive, pushing more of America's business onto the Internet. They could slow everything from check payments to Netflix's DVDs-by-mail, add costs to mail-order prescription drugs, and threaten the existence of newspapers and time-sensitive magazines delivered by postal carrier to far-flung suburban and rural communities.
The cuts, now being finalized, would close roughly 250 of the nearly 500 mail processing centers across the country as early as next March. Because the consolidations typically would lengthen the distance mail travels from post office to processing center, the agency also would lower delivery standards that have been in place since 1971.
AP compiles holiday style guide
The Associated Press has compiled a Holiday Style Guide of words, phrases and definitions to help its members and subscribers with spelling and usage of traditional terms for religious and cultural holidays in December and January. The guidance, compiled by the AP Stylebook and Lifestyles teams, encompasses Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year's festivities. Some terms are taken from the AP Stylebook. Others are common usage in holiday stories transmitted by AP.
Lee Enterprises prepares to complete refinancing
Lee Enterprises, which owns The Times and Democrat in Orangeburg, has reached a key agreement necessary to proceed with a comprehensive refinancing of its debt.
The agreement will extend Lee's debt maturity to Dec. 2015 and enable implementation of the overall refinancing plan announced in September.
AbitibiBowater becomes Resolute Forest Products
Resolute Forest Products, formerly doing business as AbitibiBowater, has introduced a new company name and identity. The company's new name and associated visual identity now appears on all marketing materials and communications. AbitibiBowater Inc. and its subsidiaries will not change their legal entity names until the company obtains shareholder approval, as required by law, at its 2012 annual general meeting.
Sailing close to the wind
If you are familiar with sailing, you know that you can't sail into the wind. You can sail at angles to the wind, and you can sail with the wind behind you, but it's physically impossible to sail directly into the wind. If you try to sail too close to the wind, the boat will go "into irons." Your forward progress will stop, the sails will flap loudly, and the boat may even move backwards. Experienced sailors have been in irons enough times to know how to avoid it - and how to get going again, after stalling on the water. They can tell by the feel of the boat when to make adjustments in rudder and the sail. It's all part of sailing. Sailing and selling have a lot in common. In a sales presentation, it's also impossible to sail directly into the wind. If your prospect is countering what you are trying to communicate, you have to adjust to the situation and change direction.
Case raises questions about how journalists report on sex abuse allegations
When Bobby Davis first told the Post-Standard and ESPN that Syracuse University assistant men's basketball coach Bernie Fine had sexually abused him, neither news organization published a story about it. Now, in the wake of more allegations that led to Fine's firing on Sunday, the Post-Standard and ESPN are letting readers know why. The news organizations' decisions raise important questions about how journalists handle sex abuse allegations -- and the factors they should consider when deciding whether to publish stories about them. Some have criticized both news organizations for "failing to respond" and for not helping a victim get justice. But the Post-Standard and ESPN say they didn't think they had sufficient evidence to move forward.