Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Editor’s Notes: Registering journalists is a bad idea

South Carolina lawmaker Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Laurens, has sponsored one of the most idiotic bills you’ve ever heard of.

Pitts, who is angry at the way gun issues are being reported, wants every journalist in the state to be registered with the government.

“It strikes me as ironic that the first question is constitutionality from a press that has no problem demonizing firearms,” Pitts said. “With this statement I’m talking primarily about printed press and TV. The TV stations, the six o’clock news and the printed press has no qualms demonizing gun owners and gun ownership.”

What’s ironic is the misguided idea sacrifices the First Amendment to promote the Second Amendment.

Pitts has already said he has no expectation that his bill ever make it into law, which only tells me that he is wasting his time and our taxpayer dollars so he can tell people he doesn’t like some news reports.

As a gun owner and unregistered journalist working in South Carolina, I don’t agree with everything I read about guns either, but you can bet I will defend the rights of journalists to report on the issue.

Bill Rogers, executive director of the South Carolina Press Association, said he found the bill bizarre and he planned to lobby hard against it.

Bizarre is putting it politely. This is just a bumble-headed idea that has done nothing to advance the conversation on gun control, but instead has started a huge conversation on how nutty South Carolina politics is.

“Any registration of journalists would be unconstitutional — unless you lived in Cuba or North Korea,” Rogers told The Associated Press last week.

Well said.

You may remember Representative Pitts from headlines he made last summer as he opposed the push to remove the Confederate Flag from South Carolina’s Statehouse grounds after the slayings of nine black parishioners at Emanuel AME in Charleston.

He said his opposition was motivated as a stand for state tradition, not anything related to racial issues.

Whatever Pitts’ motivation is for throwing out the First Amendment, it seems like a far stretch to link it to a handful of news stories he doesn’t like.

Messing with any of our Constitutional rights is something that really needs to be thought through. Perhaps a better way to go about this would have been to, say, talk about guns and gun issues, which we should talk more about.

What Pitts and I do agree on is that guns deserve great respect.

This is something I learned early growing up, although I didn’t go hunting until I was about 16. And it was years later that I first became an actual gun owner. Today, my children own their own firearms, and we enjoy shooting as a family on a regular basis. To them gun control means a steady hand, and that the only real safety mechanism is keeping your finger off the trigger.

Here’s the thing: We need more conversation about hot button issues ­— racial injustice, responsible gun ownership, domestic violence, etc. But limiting who can say what about these issues is just wrong thinking. Again, we need more conversation, not less.


David Kennard is the executive editor of Summerville Communications, which publishes the Berkeley Independent, Goose Creek Gazette and Summerville Journal Scene. Contact him at dkennard@journalscene.com or 843-873-9424. Follow him on Twitter @davidbkennard.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Editor’s Notes: Weather a big part of local news


Last week, Santee Cooper announced that it was opening its floodgates on Lake Marion and spilling into the waterways downstream.

For Richie Wimmer that news came too late.

Wimmer and several friends were fishing from his brand new pontoon boat on Lake Marion when Santee Cooper pulled the lever. Like a tiny floating toy in a bathtub, Wimmer, his three friends and his new boat were nearly sucked down the giant drain.

When reporter Lindsay Street heard about it she immediately started asking questions. You’ll see her story in today’s edition.

Santee Cooper says the lake was too full and spilling water into the streams and lakes below was necessary. No doubt.

All the rain we’ve seen lately in the Lowcountry has filled our lakes as well as saturated the ground - giving more rainwater nowhere to go.

More rain over the next few weeks and months is highly likely. And while it’s doubtful we’ll see a repeat of last fall’s catastrophic flooding, it’s wise to be prepared nonetheless.

“We are continuing to monitor the weather and any impacts it may have so that we can respond safely and promptly to any issues that arise,” said Mike Poston, from Santee Cooper.

Weather is one of those things that affects our communities in so many ways.

As a news organization we’re always watching the weather because, well, people love to talk about the weather.

As a relative newcomer, I am still hearing tales about Hurricane Hugo that blew through here more than 25 years ago. I’m sure we’ll be talking about the floods of 2015 for years to come as well.

Most of our weather information comes from the National Weather Service, which keeps detailed – and I mean detailed – records on everything you can think of – rainfall, snow levels, humidity, relative humidity, wind chill, wind speed, moon phases and tide cycles, everything. All of that data is great information, and news organizations like ours love information.

The National Weather Service measures rainfall in any given year from October to October, which means this year’s rainfall totals could be skewed a bit from all the rain we got early in the season. By the time the water year ends in September, we may have numbers telling us that we’ve had a heavy rain year - even if it’s dry for weeks and weeks.

In my news career, as I’ve figured out to report on weather events, I’ve learned that farmers and ranchers care a great deal about the weather. They are the first to call me when I’ve got something wrong.

Water is life or death to farmers.

A few years ago, when I was working in central Washington, a huge snowstorm blew in, closing roads and knocking out power. The hardest hit were the dairy farmers. Cows have to be fed and milked twice a day, rain or shine. And while all the dairies had some way of generating their own power for their milking machines, they had limited capacity for storing all the milk.

After a couple of days of no milk truck pickups, farmers had little choice than to dump their milk onto the frozen ground.

As an industry, millions of dollars of raw milk went to waste.

Here in the Lowcountry we don’t see much snow, but we are very familiar with the costly damage that Mother Nature can bring.

Santee Cooper is well aware of that. We depend on officials there to understand what the weather can do and how to adjust to it.

“Santee Cooper’s dams and dikes are secure,” according to a statement from the company last week. “Spilling is a normal part of Santee Cooper’s hydroelectric operations in periods of increased flows into the lakes.”

Local businesses still suffering from October’s flood damage – and even Mr. Wimmer who lost a brand new pontoon boat – can appreciate that despite all our efforts to control Mother Nature, sometimes all we can do is watch.


David Kennard is the executive editor of Summerville Communications, which publishes the Berkeley Independent, Goose Creek Gazette and Summerville Journal Scene. Contact him at dkennard@journalscene.com or 843-873-9424. Follow him on Twitter @davidbkennard.com.