highlighted on Inside Edition
Inside Edition will air a special program on golf cart safety which will feature interviews with members of the family of Haley Taylor, this Friday, Sept. 19.
Taylor was killed in a golf cart accident in January.
The help the family with medical bills, The Town of Pelzer is sponsoring a benefit on November 1 at the Pelzer ball fields.
The event will include a sponsored bike (motorcycle) ride, entertainment, auction and raffle, barbecue places and a childrens entertainment area.
There will be an auction of donated items which will begin at 11 a.m. on Nov. 1.
If you have items that you would like to donate for the auction, they can be brought to Ace Hardware in Williamston on Sept. 20 from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Hotdog plates will also be available during the day.
To help with the fundraiser, tickets are being sold a drawing for two four wheelers. In addition to helping with medical bills, proceeds will be used for care packages in memory of Haley for parents if children in ICU at the Greenville Memorial Hospital. The cost for a care package is approximately $20. Packages include chapstick, tissue, deodorant, lotion, Bibles and other items.
For more information call 947-6532 or go to the website at www.ourangelhaley.com.
By Stan Welch
Two farm fires which occurred early Friday morning are being investigated as arson, according to Chief Billy Gibson, of the Anderson County Fire Department.
Shortly after midnight on Thursday, the Cheddar and Whitefield Departments responded to a fire at a farm at 8 Lester Road. That fire, at the farm of Wade Ellison, destroyed two tractors and a pickup truck, as well as burning 100 bales of hay.
So hot was the fire that some of the vinyl siding on the house was also damaged.
While the fire was being fought, firefighters on the scene saw another fire at a farm on Boiter Road. Units from the West Pelzer, Rock Springs and Friendship Fire Departments responded. That fire destroyed approximately 60 bales of hay, but no equipment.
Approximately fifty firefighters responded to the two scenes. We had one man who was treated for heat exhaustion at the scene but he returned to service. No other firefighters or civilians were injured. Obviously, we are treating these as set fires and are investigating them as such. We do have a couple of leads we are following but no arrests have been made at this time, said Chief Gibson.
By Stan Welch
The Piedmont Public Service Commission met Monday night, and once again, Commissioner Bobby Stover was unable to join them. He is currently recovering from gall bladder surgery at Greenville Memorial, and has also been diagnosed with cancer. (See related story elsewhere in this issue.)
In other business, Chief Tracy Wallace reported that the fire department had received a FEMA grant in the amount of $104,000, which will be used for communications equipment, including a station to be used in the fire bay and new radios for all the trucks. In addition, a generator capable of running the entire station in times of power outages will be purchased and installed.
A $60,000 competitive state grant was also obtained, and will be used to purchase and equip a grass truck, to be used in fighting grass fires. Senator ODell and Rep. Cooper were very helpful in getting us this grant, and we certainly thank them for that, and all the help they give us. They are always there to support us, said Wallace.
Chairman Ed Poore stressed that the Commissions aggressive pursuit of such grants helps keep local taxes down. We and the staff, along with these elected officials, work very hard to obtain these grants. Without that, our taxes would be much higher. Higher taxes was on the mind of another commissioner as well, but in a different light.
Commissioner Marsha Rogers first raised the question of raising taxes at the Commissions August meeting. She reported that the Piedmont Department had lost almost $60,000 in revenues due to reassessment, and raised the question of how the department could continue to meet its budget.
In a letter to the Commissioners, dated August 6, Rogers provided a list of eleven Greenville County fire departments that have either approved or are seeking tax increases for their operations. She also pointed out that the Piedmont commission was informed during the most recent budget process that reassessment would deeply impact the revenues available.
Our expenses exceeded our revenues on the budget we just passed and we had to dip into reserve money to balance our budget. We all know that the cost of gas, supplies, etc. are increasing daily, which will put the board into a No Win situation when the budget rolls around in 2009. Our reserve funds will not be able to handle the added expense.
She also reminded the Commission that twenty years has passed since the taxes for the fire department had been raised. It was also mentioned that a millage tax increase would only increase property valued at $100,000 by four dollars per mill, or two dollars per mill for those under the homestead exemption.
During the commissioners comments Monday night, Rogers repeated her concerns, as well as her complaint that no effort had been made to address the issue. I attended a meeting with the Greenville County auditor in August, along with Frankie Garrett and Chief Wallace. Following that presentation, which made it clear that we are in financial trouble without a tax increase, I asked for a called meeting to discuss this and Commissioner Garrett refused to attend, thereby killing the meeting.
Then I asked for a workshop and we talked about all this. I asked for another called meeting and got nowhere, so I asked that we move the September meeting up to allow us time to meet a September 15 deadline ( Editors note: That was the date of Mondays meeting being reported on in this article) that would have made a millage increase possible. But you, Chairman Poore, refused to do so, saying that we couldnt take a vote at a workshop meeting. ( Editors note: The South Carolina Freedom of Information Act does prohibit formal actions being taken in a workshop format.) But, Mr. Chairman, I have since researched the records and I have included a list of meetings which we changed to accommodate Commissioners personal schedules, including changing one for Frankie Garrett for his vacation. This was much more important than that. And we have often changed those meetings without a vote, even handling one change by telephone.
The list by Rogers included six times in the last two years when meetings have been rescheduled. The document indicates that none of the meetings were changed by a formal vote, but by consensus of the board. That is a common practice, according to accounts of the Commissions meetings in the press.
Rogers, who is not seeking another term on the Commission in November, said in an interview after the meeting that she thinks those Commissioners seeking reelection are trying to avoid the issue of raising taxes until after the election. But that may be too late. The point is that we need to face facts. We havent raised taxes for fire services in twenty years. How can we continue to provide acceptable protection without increased funds? This board, and Chairman Poore, denied itself a chance to address this very important issue, and thats a shame.
By Stan Welch
The September 12 meeting of the Pelzer Town Council was cancelled when a quorum could not be assembled. Town clerk Skip Watkins said that the only items on the agenda were some various scenarios for the council to consider as they move towards increasing the water and sewer rates for the town in the coming months.
The rates would be increased in order to begin amassing funds for sewer repairs and upgrades as they become necessary. The town is currently under a DHEC consent order which tightly prohibits any commercial or industrial development in the town. The meeting hasnt been rescheduled and we may just wait until our regular October meeting, said Watkins.
Watkins also reported that SCDOT officials, including Cathy Rice, were to be in town on Tuesday, September 16, to review the towns proposed plans for their Streetscape Project. The proposed plans would include landscaping and decorative sidewalks around and along the gym area on up past the current rescue squad building, which will be turned into the Town Hall once the squad relocates. The project, if approved and funded, will end at the post office building.
In the meantime, Heather Holcombe, Watkins assistant, has organized a sock hop to be held at the gym from 7 p.m. till 11 p.m. this Friday night. Admission is three dollars for all those over the age of four. The theme is a 1950s sock hop and a prize will be awarded for the best costumes. Several door prizes will also be given each hour because our local merchants and vendors were so generous, said Holcombe.
DJ Jerry Peeler from Anderson will be spinning the tunes, and the proceeds will go to other recreational activities. We just wanted to do something really fun for the kids on a Friday night, said Holcombe.
By David C. Meade
Residents of the Cheddar community met Monday at the Cheddar Fire Department for an update on the planned ethanol facility on Lewis Drive and discussed possible legal action to delay it, at least until concerns are addressed.
Community spokesperson Steve Chapman said that he had talked with representatives of Lincoln Oil and that the offload facility was definitely coming. He said he was told all DHEC and EPA safety guidelines and requirements would be met.
The issue of closing Lewis Drive still remains a point of contention and questions still remain about property that is to be rezoned for the facility.
Amy Plummer, representing the railroad company, said that the DHEC permit had been applied for and that all legal steps had been followed.
Chapman, addressing the 15 or so in attendance said, As a community we should check to see that they are being met and is as safe as possible.
Questions and concerns included the exact location of the switching yard for the facility, right of ways and plans, noise and air quality. There was also discussion about safety, evacuation and firefighting.
Plummer attempted to address some of them.
She said the plan for access to the facility has been designed with or without the road closure.
She said 36 cars can be brought in and the facility will unload five tank cars at a time. She said most of the tank cars parked south of Belton contain fatty acid and do not contain ethanol. She said they are empty.
Plummer said the ethanol will be piped from the railroad tankers to the storage tanks.
According to Plummer, a train consists of 96 units which she said can be unloaded in 12 hours, with 16-31 units unloaded at a time, three times per day.
Then the question of a possible derailment and associated dangers came up.
How much time do we have to get away, Steve Chapman said. We dont have people addressing our community. My fears have not been addressed. As a father and neighbor, my fears have not been addressed.
This causes community unrest, he said. A lot of questions could have been addressed.
Plummer obviously took offense to the comment stating that she considered the statements slander.
Plummer said she understood their fears and feelings.
When the issue of the property rezoning request came up, she said There was no influence used on this.
Debra Chapman who serves on the citizens advisory board for the area said, We were lied to and told there was no plans for that.
Plummer said she had worked for the railroad for two years and on the project for only 6 months. She said the plans for the facility were develped a year later. We followed procedures to the letter of the law.
You said I mishandled that. She then said, Mrs. Wilson, you have lied and you know it. I have an attorney in Atlanta and I have recorded it.
She then said that Lincoln Oil had hired the number one firm in the country to design the facility, contributed $10,000 to the fire department and followed the law, and all DHEC and Dept. of Energy requirements.
One resident asked about full disclosure to the public and that his concerns would not be addressed until he sees it. We need to demand it. Until I see a document and it has been approved.
Again Plummer said no influence was used (by her) in the process.
She said when they first started looking at the facility she stayed out of the process and did not attend meetings.
It needed to be decided by council, I did not speak, she said. There was no influence. I just didnt want to be connected.
A resident then asked, Where are the plans or blue prints. If we had them it might answer questions like where the boundary fence is.
Plummer said, They have the plans. A lot of that information is proprietary. She said it will be sent in Mrs. Wilsons package.
District 7 Councilwoman Cindy Wilson said there was very little information on the project and she initially voted in favor of it. She said she has since sent a letter to DHEC to hold up permitting until questions being posed by the community could be answered.
One resident stated that he was not against economic development, contrary to statements being made, but that it infringed on public safety and there are a lot of questions.
Plummer then said that area residents were asking for payments or jobs with the railroad. It is extortion. You got money out of the land fill and you want it out of the railroad.
Chapman responded that he loves his home, brought his kids there, he loves his neighbors and that he lives in a nice quiet safe neighborhood. I dont need the railroad to buy my home, he said.
Another lady in the room stated,If somebody tried to buy me out I would decline. She said she considered it a slice against her character. This has nothing to do with any kind of extortion.
Debbie Chapman said until she gets full disclosure and information on the project, she will continue to fight it.
Councilwoman Wilson said she will request a DHEC hearing on the project.
The residents discussed possibly hiring legal counsel to look at the situation but no decision was made.
Voters will be taken back to days gone by when eating barbecue, kissing babies, listening to the constituency, and making stump speeches were part and parcel of the political scene in the South as candidates from all parties will speak at an Old Fashioned Stump Meeting and Barbecue, Sunday, Sept. 21, at the Historic Belton Train Depot.
Candidates from all parties who are running for offices on the local, state, and national level have been invited to participate, said Maureen Stevens.
Stevens and the BHP Student Council have organized the event as part of the activities held in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institute Exhibit Key Ingredients: America by Food which is on display at the depot. Visitors will be able to view the exhibit prior to and after the stump meeting.
Barbecue plates prepared by veterans of the American Legion, Post 51, will be served beginning at 12:00 PM. The plates include barbecue, rolls, slaw, baked beans, and tea for $7 per plate.
After the tables are rolled back, the stump meeting will begin at 2:00 PM. Candidates have been asked to speak to the attendees for a maximum of 5 minutes, introducing themselves and their platforms in a non-combative environment.
Incumbent Gresham Barrett, Congressman from the 3rd District, is slated to speak in addition to his opponent Jane Dyer. Candidates for the District 4 State Senate seat, the State House District 7 seat, and county races for auditor, coroner, county council, sheriff, and treasurer will also be in attendance.
The stump meeting is free to the public.
We hope everyone will attend and by meeting and listening to the candidates become more informed voters, stated BHP Student Council President David Wilson.
For more information, please call Maureen Stevens at 933-9767 or Roy Mac Haggard at 617-1030.
Two District One schools, Hunt Meadows Elementary and Wren Elementary, were recently recognized by a statewide program for their efforts to promote wellness among students and staff.
The schools were among seven South Carolina public schools that received Healthy Schools Awards, a joint effort of the State Department of Education and the Department of Health and Environmental Control.
The awards are given to schools that demonstrate a coordinated team approach to improving student health and provide evidence of achieving best practices.
We congratulate these outstanding schools, State Superintendent Jim Rex said. Their administrators, staff and students all recognize the importance of developing and practicing healthy habits. In addition to providing excellent examples for schools searching for ways to promote childrens health, these programs showcase successful strategies that adults are using as well.
Its no secret that healthy children learn better, said DHEC commissioner Earl Hunter.
To be designated a Healthy School, schools must show a coordinated team approach to improving student health and provide evidence of achieving best practices in at least one component of the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions Adolescent and School Health Eight-Component model of Coordinated School Health.
The components are: health and safety policies and environment; health education; physical education and physical activity; nutrition services; health services; guidance, psychological and social services; health promotion for staff; and family and community involvement.
Each school day at Hunt Meadows Elementary begins with a morning TVbroadcast that includes a five-minute classroom cardio workout where everyone participates. The morning show also features a daily health tip.
The school has a unicycle and juggling enrichment program for 4th and 5th graders, and over the past eight years, more than 350 students have mastered unicycle riding.
A healthy snack list posted on the schools web site contains a calorie count for all items served in school, and nutrition education posters are displayed in the cafeteria.
Breakfast and aerobic exercise are offered and encouraged in the classroom, and all students are offered 150 minutes of physical education and recess a week. Dental screenings and education are offered to all first graders, and the Anderson County Dental Clinic provides weekly fluoride swish treatment to participating students.
The school has seen the time it takes to respond to an emergency drill decrease from four minutes to two minutes. There is 100 percent staff participation in blood borne pathogen training and personal safety seminars. Nancy Prince is the Principal.
Wren Elementary School was a Five Component Winner. Wren Elementary provides 75 minutes of physical education weekly to all students and works to implement state and national standards for physical education instruction. Administrators and staff have also implemented a program called Pedaling Across the Palmetto State to integrate physical education and social studies concepts. Rhonda Tunstall is the Principal.
Country star Jason Aldean will perform at Clemson Universitys Littlejohn Coliseum Saturday, Oct. 25, as part of CMT On Tour 08. The show will also include a performance by reigning ACM Top New Group Lady Antebellum.
Tickets are $16.75 and $26.75 plus applicable fees and are available at the Littlejohn Coliseum box office, TicketMaster outlets or online at http://www.ticketmaster.com. Students and employees with a Clemson ID will receive a $5 discount on all tickets, with a limit of two tickets per ID.
Aldean has sold more than two million albums and has five consecutive top 10 hits, including his first hit Hicktown, the No. 1 single Why and Laughed Until We Cried. His most recent album Relentless has been certified gold.
Lady Antebellums self-titled debut album hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart earlier this year. It includes the singles Love Dont Live Here and Lookin for a Good Time.
CMT On Tour, now in its seventh year, has featured such headliners as Keith Urban, Rascal Flatts, Sugarland and Brad Paisley.
The Steve Miller Band will kick off the second leg of its 2008 tour at Clemson Universitys Littlejohn Coliseum Wednesday, Oct. 22.
Tickets for the show are $25, $35 and $45 plus applicable fees and are available at the Littlejohn Coliseum box office, TicketMaster outlets or online at http://www.ticketmaster.com. Students and employees with a Clemson ID will receive a $5 discount on all tickets, with a limit of two tickets per ID.
Steve Miller Band is best known for classic rock hits including The Joker, Fly Like an Eagle, Take the Money and Run, Jungle Love and Swingtown. The current tour will include many of these favorites, as well as previews from Millers forthcoming album, recorded this spring. The show will touch on many aspects of Millers multi-faceted music from solo acoustic numbers to Chicago blues to R&B.
Miller was honored earlier this year with a Golden Note Award acknowledging his lifetime achievements by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.
By Stan Welch
A recent general obligation bond issue approved by the County Council, in the amount of $10 million, included just over $900,000 to be used in renovating a community center in District Two.
Now, there seem to be serious questions about where the Broadway Lake Community Center, as it was referred to during budget discussions, actually is.
For weeks the building was referred to as the Broadway Lake Community Center, but at final reading of the bond ordinance, District Two Councilwoman Gracie Floyd informed the Council that the building in question was actually the Broadview Johnson Community Center.
This is not on the lake, this is the community center off of Broadway Lake Rd., known as the Jebco Center, said Floyd, during a discussion of the bond issue. (Editors note: Despite the acronym for the Johnson Broadview Estates Community Organization actually being JBECO, it is commonly pronounced as jebco.)
District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson, who has repeatedly questioned the estimates of more than $900,000 to renovate the facility, was stunned, saying You mean this is the JBECO center were talking about? I dont think anyone in the entire county realized that was what we were talking about. I cant believe it.
Ms. Wilson says that during the original presentation on the proposed renovation to be funded under the ten million dollar general obligation bond, all indications were that the site was located on the lakefront. There were pictures that showed the lake in the background and information on flood elevations and other indications that this would be a waterfront location. I thought we were talking about the county owned property at the dam site. When Ms. Floyd said it was to be the Jebco center, I was flabbergasted. We have been misled about this and about the estimated costs. Exactly where is this money going?
Wilson has repeatedly claimed that the project could be done for less than half of the proposed cost.
The Johnson Broadview Estates Community Organization, located on Melody Trail off of Broadway Lake Road, has been the recipient of a considerable amount of financial attention from Ms. Floyd in the years she has been on the Council.
Records obtained by The Journal reflect more than $81,000 in appropriations by Councilwoman Floyd to the Center, which is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization, since 1999.
In 1998, Chairman William Floyd appropriated $10,200 to the JBECO Center, with no indication of what the money would be used for, nor any record of the appropriation in the minutes of meetings held during that time. In October of 1999, following her husbands untimely death, and her September election to fill his term, newly seated Councilwoman Gracie Floyd appropriated $8900 from her recreation funds to be used for recreational purposes.
In March of 2000, she allocated an additional $2800 for an unspecified purpose, followed in September by an appropriation of $12,500 to continue to do work at the community center, according to county documents. The nature of the work was unspecified.
In July 2001, she requested that $10,000 be appropriated, with no indication of its intended use. A little less than a year later, an additional $4000 was approved for roof repair and replacement.
In November of 2002, $4500 was allocated for community enhancement. In July of 2003, $8500 was appropriated for repairs due to water damage from a bad roof.
In July of 2004, $6000 was allocated for undesignated uses, followed by a $3000 amount in February of 2005, to be used in mold removal. In July of that same year, $5000 was allocated to the JBECO Community Association. No mention of the funds intended uses was made.
July of 2006 saw another allocation made in the amount of $5000, again undesignated to any specific purpose, according to county records. In September of 2007, Councilwoman Floyd requested that an additional $3000 of her Districts recreational funds be allocated to the center. The purpose of the funds was not mentioned.
Anderson County Purchasing Director Robert Carroll said that the County has never been involved in seeking bids or awarding any contracts for repairs or renovations at the JBECO center. None of those projects have been handled by the County, so we have no contracts, bids, or any documents of that nature on file.
Gina Humphreys, Finance Director for the county, added that when a 501(C)(3) organization receives an appropriation from a Council member that no documentation of its use is required. We dont ask for invoices or bids or things like that. We just cut the check directly to the organization, said Humpheys.
Efforts to reach Ms. Floyd for comment were unsuccessful.
By Stan Welch
The Anderson County Council continued to operate along well established lines Tuesday night, as the lame duck majority continued to vote with two of the surviving incumbents, leaving Council members Cindy Wilson and Bob Waldrep stuck in a minority rut, unable to effect any significant change in the Councils direction.
Waldrep did manage to make a plea that Council reconsider its disapproval on second reading of a rezoning request by Anderson School District Five that would allow construction of a middle school on Old Williamston Road.
He had been absent at the meeting where the vote was taken to kill the request, a vote that was a three to three tie, in Waldreps absence. He was serving as a SC Republican delegate to the national convention that week.
Waldrep said he tried to vote by proxy but was unable to. I have not voted at all, so I am on neither the prevailing nor losing side of this issue, and I would ask that this be brought up for reconsideration. This is a zoning issue, and we are not in the business of locating the schools. That is the school boards business, not ours.
Waldrep also hinted at what is expected to be a major shift in the balance of power when the three new Council members are seated. (Editors note: Council members Bill McAbee, Larry Greer and Michael Thompson were all defeated in the Republican primary and their opponents face no challenge in November. Councilwoman Gracie Floyd faces Republican challenger Bill Holder in November.)
You all know that this is a temporary victory, but to refuse to reconsider this places additional stress on the school board, who will have to wait until January to see their request revisited. I am reminded of the saying of Thomas More. Its not what you can do, but what you should do, said Waldrep.
Waldrep had low expectations for his chances for a favorable ruling by Chairman Thompson. I see the Chair has that look in his eye that so many judges have had just before ruling against me, said Waldrep. Indeed, Thompson, citing Roberts Rules of Order, refused Waldreps request on the grounds that only a member of the prevailing side of a vote can raise it for reconsideration.
Councilman Greer, who was on the prevailing side, then spoke, saying that he and District Five superintendent Betty Bagley had spoken and she had agreed to take steps to insure the tradition and dignity of schools which are closed, including the McDuffie High school. Therefore, I move that this item be reconsidered.
Following a vote to reconsider, and further discussion of the rezoning request itself, second reading approval was given to the zoning request.
Waldrep and Wilson found themselves isolated from the rest of Council again, when the issue of a special source revenue bond in the amount of $2.25 million for construction of six hangars at the airport came up.
The bond, by definition, is supposed to be repaid strictly through the revenues generated by the airport. Holt Hopkins, County Transportation Director, and John Ferguson, Airport Manager, pled their case, saying that a study they commissioned had found that nearly fifty airplane owners in the Upstate area are begging for hangar space, according to Hopkins.
We expect to fill all these hangar spaces within six months to a year, said Hopkins. The figures used to project the costs of these hangars are high because we plan to do much of the infrastructure work, such as grading and paving, ourselves. We also hope to get grants from the state for materials for taxiways and access roads.
Hopkins also added that the work will be done a little at a time. This will be a work in progress. We wont do it all at once.
That led Councilwoman Wilson to question why the County should borrow all the money at once. Lets build the first hangar, and fill it. Then, when it is paying its way, lets build the next one or even two. Id be the first to vote for that. But in the market that we are seeing right now, it seems stupid to put the airport in jeopardy by borrowing all this money.
Councilman Waldrep agreed, saying that a half million dollars for hangar construction had been included in a recent general obligation bond the Council approved. I was totally in favor of that appropriation, but now, were seeing this rather large program and in light of recent financial circumstances, it makes no sense to get in this deep. Im pretty sure that none of the lending institutes that we will be borrowing this from are going to say, Well, the airport didnt make enough. I guess we just wont get paid.
Waldrep also asked how the bond would be repaid if the hangars were less than successful. Hopkins said that every resource the airport had would be used to repay the loans. County attorney Tom Martin confirmed that while a special resource revenue bond prohibits using general funds to repay the loan, any revenue generated by the airport, such as fuel sales or maintenance fees could be used to repay the bond.
Ms. Wilson then said that general funds could be transferred to help with the airports operational expenses, thereby freeing up more airport revenues to be used in paying the debt.
Councilwoman Floyd made an impassioned plea for the bond issue, saying that There is a need for those planes to be covered up. Anderson County is notorious for losing out on the good stuff. We dont need to lose out on this.
The Council, after considerable discussion, voted 5-2 to approve the bond issue.
The same general pattern applied to a subsequent resolution to approve a $5.4 million leasepurchase agreement to obtain various vehicles and heavy equipment. Waldrep and Wilson recommended restraint, and replacing fewer vehicles at one time, while the majority approved the resolution by a vote of 5-2.
Councilwoman Wilson did appropriate $2500 to the Cheddar Fire Department to apply to the purchase of a foam buggy, which is needed to help fight fires at the Belton tank farm and the proposed ethanol facility to be built there in the coming months.
By Stan Welch
Like most people, I have a few rituals in my daily life that I follow because they have either brought me luck or simply make me comfortable in some way that I find appealing. Some of these rituals I learned from my parents, or teachers or friends.
For example, I read a newspaper the way my father did. I begin with a quick glance at the front page, to make sure nuclear war hasnt broken out; then I go to the sports page. After sports, its back to the front page, then to the regional/community section and op-ed page. Finally I go to the comics, in case the op-ed page wasnt funny enough. Womens section? Not the last time I looked.
On Sunday mornings, I read the paper, outside if the weather cooperates, and drink two or three cups of coffee. It is a way of starting my day of leisure that I enjoy, that I have enjoyed for many years. Its the same with the CBS Sunday Morning show, the closest thing to a Sunday paper that television offers.
I wouldnt go so far as to say my love for newspapers strongly influenced my decision to become a reporter, but I wouldnt say it didnt play some small part. I became a reporter well into my adult working life, and I have never really considered anything else since. A fellow Citadel alumna, Pat Conroy, was signing a copy of his third or fourth bestseller for my mother, who bought it for me. She told him I was a newspaper reporter, and he said, Oh, he took the oath of poverty.
Well, not quite, Pat, but closer than I like. But it is a job that most of us do because we love it and we think it is important that someone does it, to the best of their respective abilities. I have always respected journalists, and print journalists more than any others.
Are reporters competitive? You bet. I have known some who would cut your throat to get a jump on a story, and Im not above a little misdirection myself to get a head start. I have crawled through barbed wire fences and snuck around police barricades (not in Anderson County, Sheriff) and made up outrageous cover stories to get information I couldnt get otherwise.
But if a reporter needs a pencil or a camera battery or a lift to crime scene, Im there. And most of the guys and gals I know who do this job are the same way. Some of us develop friendships, others develop uneasy working relationships; but we can always sit down and drink a cold one and swap tales for a couple hours.
That attitude is a common one within the craft and was perhaps most visible right after Hurricane Hugo, when the newspapers in Charleston were devastated and overwhelmed, and faced with challenges they never dreamed of. Newspapers from all over the state pitched in, providing technical and production assistance, office space, free printing, and even housing for displaced reporters and other employees.
The News & Courier/Charleston Evening Post never missed an edition. It was one of journalisms finer moments in South Carolina.
Thats why Im sorry to see decent, solid, and occasionally gifted writers, columnists and reporters being sloughed off at the local daily newspaper. Their staff has shrunk to a fraction of its size two years ago, and the word is out that only an unlikely surge in sales/revenues can save the Saturday edition from being cut from the schedule, to be followed by the Monday edition if need be.
Its no fun to hear about the daily's troubles. All newspapers are taking it on the chin these days from internet websites that worry little if at all about documenting their reports. None of us are doing as well as we would like. If were doing as well as we were a year ago, thats a good thing. Competition for news is all about speed, and the definition of speed changes daily.
In some ways, weeklies are in better shape than dailies, because nobody expects us to be fast. We are better off being thorough and more in-depth and remembering we are local newspapers. Very few of our readers will see their childs picture in the Atlanta Journal or New York Times for making the jayvee football team. Thats our job.
Plus, the overhead at a weekly newspaper is far less than one seventh the overhead of a daily.
While the local daily's troubles may offer opportunities to other papers, any glee felt over those opportunities is felt at the management level and in the sales offices of their competitors, not among the reporters and photographers who run into each other all the time, who kill the endless minutes during the executive sessions so favored by government bodies everywhere.
Many people say the local daily brought their troubles on themselves, by being too compliant, some say complicit, in not persistently questioning the politics and corruption that seems to have stained Andersons political landscape for many years past. I dont know; I cannot say. I have only been here three years. I do think they have been less than aggressive during that time.
I know very few reporters who will walk around or even away from a story because of the possible financial or political impact on their paper. Most of them seldom notice or think about such things, until an editor brings it to their attention or steps on their story. So it seems to me that if the local daily has brought this on itself, it wasnt the reporters who did it.
It also seems to me that a town the size of Anderson should have a daily paper, and I hope that continues to be the case. Whether it will be the current daily or not seems to be a real question.
Besides, whats the fun in having a big story if you dont beat somebody else to it?