|Revisting FOI on public bodies amending the agenda
Editor's Note: This column by SCPA Attorney Jay Bender ran in August, but we've gotten a number of calls and emails recently about issues with public bodies amending the agenda. Please read this and make sure you understand what the FOIA says about amending the agenda.
The FOIA requires public bodies to give advance notice of their meetings as soon as practicable, but not less than 24 hours in advance of a meeting. "Agenda, if any, for regularly scheduled meetings must be posted" at least 24 hours in advance of a meeting. For special meetings, called meetings or rescheduled meetings the notice must be posted not less than 24 hours in advance, and must include an agenda.
Persons who request notice of meetings, local news media, or other news media requesting notice must be given notice of the times, dates, places and agenda of all meetings.
In light of these requirements, does a public body have the power to amend an agenda during a public meeting?
I have joked for years that the pre-meeting agenda posted for a Charleston City Council meeting would contain only innocuous and non-controversial matters, and then at the meeting a motion would be passed to amend the agenda to discuss annexation of Savannah.
Many public bodies routinely amend meeting agenda after notice of the meeting has been given to add items that have not been disclosed in the published agenda. It can no longer be argued that such practice is lawful under the FOIA.
In June the South Carolina Court of Appeals ruled that the amendment of an agenda during a meeting to add an item for discussion or action was inconsistent with the law. The court said, "[T]o allow an amendment of the agenda regarding substantive public matters undercuts the purpose of the notice requirement...."
The court also ruled that the "if any" language regarding an agenda for a regularly scheduled meeting meant that if there were a regularly scheduled meeting without an advance agenda "no formal action or discussion is to take place."
SCPA changes its dues structure to an ad-based formula
The S.C. Press Association has changed the way it will assess dues in the future.
For decades dues had been based on circulation. The SCPA Executive Committee voted to shift the dues formula to a percentage of the cost of a full page ad at the local, open rate.
“We surveyed all Southern press associations and confirmed we were one of the few still basing dues on circulation,” said Bill Rogers, SCPA Executive Director.
The association froze dues in 2008 when circulation had a downward trend, Rogers said.
SCPA dues remain in the bottom third of Southern press association dues rates and we offer a great deal of bang for the buck for members, Rogers said.
He noted that members get about two to three times their dues back through ad network participation.
“We value member support and I would put our newspapers up against newspapers anywhere,” he said. “We do good journalism in the Palmetto State.”
Overall, the shift will bring about a two percent increase in 2013 dues income to SCPA.
But the shift will have varying effects on individual papers. Thirty newspapers will see a decrease of more than five percent, and 47 papers will see an increase of greater than five percent. The remaining 34 members will see a change of less than five percent.
Letters to individual publishers were sent out earlier this month and actual dues billings will go out on Dec. 14.
Please contact Bill at (803) 750-9561 if you have questions.
Opinion: Public has right to know what took place with hacking
The Times and Democrat
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 of Charleston 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.
After The Post and Courier began asking questions about the report, Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said the administration will make the full report available to lawmakers and constitutional officers on request. But Godfrey said that heeding the advice of Mandiant, the report will not be publicly released.
So again, the public does not get information it should be receiving. At very least, the Revenue Department should provide a detailed explanation for why it is withholding the report.
New publisher named at Lexington newspaper
Lexington County Chronicle Managing Editor Michael Ball has been named the newspaper's new publisher.
In the role, he will also serve as publisher of LexingtonChronicle.com, the newspaper's website, and The Lake Murray Fish Wrapper, its sister publication.
The announcement was made by retiring publisher MacLeod Bellune, co-founder of the Chronicle 20 years ago. She will continue to serve as President and CEO of Lexington Publishing Company, Inc., the parent company of the newspapers.
Ball was born in Mobile, Ala., but moved with his family to Lexington 22 years ago. He is a graduate of Lexington High School and the University of South Carolina.
He joined the company in 2001 as a graphic designer. He has served as managing editor since 2008.
Ball and his wife, the former Kelli Husman of Lexington, have three children, Liana, Jacob and Mary Charlotte. His parents, David and Helene Ball, are Lexington residents.
Tonnya Kennedy Kohn, former managing editor of The State, has opened a law firm in Columbia. The Kohn Law Firm provides legal services to small businesses, investors, entrepreneurs and non profits.
SLED database down through Dec. 21
SCPA is unable to do SLED checks through next Friday, Dec. 21. SLED is performing maintenance on their website. Criminal records checks can be performed by mail. SLED's site states, "We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause, but this is necessary maintenance."
Washington Post political correspondent speaking at Buchheit Family Lecture on Jan. 23
USC's School of Journalism and Mass Communications and the Buchheit family will be hosting Dan Balz, political correspondent for The Washington Post, as part of the Buchheit Family Lecture series. Balz will speak on "The Political Landscape after 2012." This event will be held Jan. 23, at 7 p.m., in the Gambrell Hall Auditorium at USC. Here's more information about this free event.
Rod Smolla: Most off-campus Internet speech will be ruled beyond the reach of public schools
Editor's Note: Smolla will speak on First Amendment issues at the SCPA Annual Meeting March 22-24, 2013, at the Westin Poinsett hotel in Greenville.
Rod Smolla is president of Furman University. Previously, he was dean of the Washington and Lee School of Law, dean of the University of Richmond School of Law, and director of the Institute of Bill of Rights Law at the College of William & Mary. Smolla is an expert on free expression and academic freedom, and he has argued before state and federal courts around the country, including the U.S. Supreme Court, where he won the landmark case Virginia v. Black. Smolla is the author of numerous books, among them: “Free Speech in an Open Society,” which won the William O. Douglas Award as the year’s best monograph on free expression; “Deliberate Intent,” which was made into a movie by the FX cable network; and “The Constitution Goes to College,” which explores the constitutional principles that shaped American higher education.
What’s the most serious threat today to free expression?
There’s no great threat. First Amendment doctrine is very stable. The Supreme Court has been extraordinarily protective of expression in the general marketplace, and its commitment has been reaffirmed time and again in cases involving highly offensive speech.
There will always be problems on the edges. There are pockets of society that the Court has walled off, ruling that people in those pockets don’t get the same protection as people in the general marketplace. For example, there are curtailments of expression for government employees and for students and teachers in public schools.
Overall, though, there’s robust protection in the general marketplace, particularly with regard to content-based restrictions.
Young-adult readers may have abandoned print, but they'll take news in their pockets
Since the rise of the Internet, print media — most notably newspapers — have faced a big problem with younger readers. But according to a new study released today by the Pew Research Center and The Economist Group, when you look specifically at the devices they love — the smartphones in their pockets — young adults rival or even surpass their parents and grandparents as news consumers.
According to the report from Pew’s Project in Excellence in Journalism, 37 percent of smartphone owners between the ages of 18 and 29 get news on their devices daily, along with 40 percent of smartphone owners aged 30 to 49. Those are slightly higher than the equivalent rates for 50-64 (31 percent) and 65-plus (25 percent). Among tablet owners, news consumption numbers were broadly similar across age groups, with 50- to 64-year-olds being the peak news consumers.
There’s more good news for media companies hoping to reach younger readers: They are more likely to share the news they read on mobile devices and to engage with ads on smartphones and tablets. For ads in particular, readers 18-29 were twice as likely to “at least sometimes” touch an ad on a tablet than people 30-49.
Use of mobile devices has been on the rise for some time, as has growing use of phones and tablets as the main method of going online. Pew’s new findings again reinforce the importance of mobile to the future of journalism, but it also points to new opportunities for media companies.
All quoteable... Some noteable
I'm writing another book.
Yah, I know. So is everyone else these days.
This will be my third...and it won't focus exclusively on design. This one includes lots of quotes, some "war stories," reflections on what I've learned (mostly from you!) over the years and some design wisdom.
It's pretty much done. But don't try to order an advance copy just yet: "pretty much done" means it's probably gonna take me another few months to polish it.
For this month's column, I thought I'd offer you a brief glimpse by sharing some of the design quotes with you. There isn't one here that I wouldn't be proud to display on my office will. But I am kinda partial to one of them. I'll let you decide which one that is.
So, read on...and be inspired!
|5 ways journalists are using Pinterest
As the audience for Pinterest grows, so has journalists' interest in it. News organizations are using the social networking site in creative ways and finding that it's a place where both hard news stories and features can thrive.
Highlight feature content
Many news organizations have taken advantage of what's popular on Pinterest — food, fashion and weddings — by creating boards that showcase the feature stories they've published on these topics.
The New York Times, for instance, has nearly two dozen food, fashion and wedding boards combined. The Wall Street Journal has several fashion boards as well, and recently experimented with Pinterest during Fashion Week.
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