CBS’ Koppel report provides hope, relights the journalism embers
Published July 2023
If you are a South Carolina newspaper (and website) journalist, then I hope I’m not sharing something you did not already know about and, more important, already watch.
But we all lead busy lives and maybe you missed it, especially since it aired on a holiday weekend.
I am referring to the CBS Sunday Morning segment with Ted Koppel that aired July 2 and shared a tale of newspaper survival in an industry that, we know all too well, is in turmoil.
“Extra! New strategies for survival by South Carolina newspapers,” while specifically centered on our state, addresses a nationwide plight that should have given viewers cause for alarm. It is no surprise to my colleagues. Newspapers are struggling. We swim against a tide of decreased revenue and declining readership in a social media world where all is “free” and a perception that we are the enemy of the people and purveyors of fake news. That is not good for newspapers that try hard to report what matters most in the communities they serve.
In the report, Koppel came to South Carolina to explore what amounts to a newspaper success story, which in large part is thanks to Pierre Manigault and Charleston’s Post and Courier newspaper that he oversees.
By teaming up with dailies and weeklies across the state, The Post and Courier’s investigative team has produced a number of stories that lay bare tales of graft, corruption and secrecy among governmental bodies and their agents who are entrusted with taxpayer dollars. The series, aptly labeled “Uncovered,” was and remains free to anyone who wants to read them.
What is the viewer’s takeaway from Koppel’s report and his focus on “Uncovered?” Affirmation. Or, perhaps, reaffirmation. In short, do not take community newspapers for granted. Moreover, while not everyone will agree with every viewpoint a newspaper publishes, while not everyone will appreciate every bit of content a newspaper produces, everyone should appreciate that local journalists are doing the people’s business.
While our communities’ residents enjoy their backyard barbecues and recreation, while they go to movies and attend children’s sporting events and dance recitals, journalists are covering and reporting on many aspects of the community, not the least of which entails staying on top of what elected and appointed officialdom is doing for them, to them and with their tax dollars.
It’s called watchdog journalism. It provides the necessary transparency and keep-’em-honest coverage that, if taken away, can and often does lead to more and rampant corruption. You know the saying about letting the fox guard the hen house, right? Think of what it is like and can be like if governmental bodies and agencies are allowed to operate in the dark, unchecked. By us.
A newspaper, whether in print or online, provides a reflection of the community it serves — revealing the good, the bad and the ugly.
But as we in the business know, we can only do so with the support of readers and advertisers. Once gone — and Koppel’s report shares the alarming rate at which newspapers all across the country are shutting down — what is left behind is a news desert. Without the work of a good newspaper, a community’s source of news dries up. Without regular resources flowing news to information-thirsty communities the people are instead left with free-flowing corruption and dishonesty on many levels.
If you missed Koppel’s report and interviews with real and hardworking journalists such as Chester’s Travis Jenkins or Blythewood’s Barbara Ball or The Post and Courier’s Glenn Smith and Tony Bartelme, fear not. Spend less than 30 minutes to watch the insightful piece using this link: shorturl.at/rNP79 or by scanning the accompanying QR code.
More than one reader of our paper contacted me to say they had watched and appreciated the segment. It gave me more than a glimmer of hope that, despite how vocal a minority they are, the haters might not be in the “W” column and perhaps in South Carolina and the nation in general, there was an awakening.
One reader in particular rekindled the embers with this message: “I love our Index-Journal, and I want it around longer than me! Thank you for your time and all you do for our community.”
Richard Whiting is executive editor of the Greenwood Index-Journal, a locally owned daily newspaper. He is President of the South Carolina Press Association and serves as chairman of the association’s Freedom of Information Committee.