Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Editor’s Notes: Make voting a family tradition

Summerville Journal Scene

Mothers teach us lots of things. Mine taught me to vote.

From my earliest memories, I recall my mother serving as a volunteer election judge. The voting precinct for my neighborhood was my elementary school. So, on every Election Day, I could count on seeing my mother sitting behind a desk outside the principal’s office helping people cast their vote.

Election Day will be forever tied to memories of my mother and the lessons of civic responsibility that she taught me.

With primary elections upon us, I can hear my mother again reminding me to get out and vote.

Likewise, my father was the example that taught me the sacred nature of voting. Dad took a keen interest in elections and made sure I was a part of the voting process, often taking me with him as he marked his ballot.

His process of preparing for an election was almost ritualistic. He read newspapers, listened to the debates on the radio and television.

Dad almost always voted Republican, but he told me that I should understand the issues before I cast my vote for either party.

By the time I turned 18, voting had become almost second nature. It was a proud moment for both my parents to see me walk into the voting booth and pull that lever for the first time.

In today’s paper you’ll find a story by Lindsay Street about voters preparing to vote. The goal of the story was to find undecided voters and explore their thought process.

Berkeley County resident Aldo Napoli’s method seemed to be exercise of elimination.

“I’ve never not voted so I’m not going to start here,” he said. “I guess I’ll see whose left because they seem to be dropping out one by one.”

Napoli, like many of us here in the Lowcountry, has been bombarded with election rhetoric for the past few weeks.

That rhetoric will only escalate in the coming days.

The Republican primary election is Saturday and the Democratic primary is a week later on the following Saturday.

Results for each race should be available by late Saturday night.

Here at the paper, we’ll be watching the elections closely and we’ll be reporting throughout the day. Lindsay Street will be reporting from Berkeley County and Jenna-Ley Harrison will be reporting from Dorchester County.

Their coverage, of course will include statewide data as it comes in from Columbia.

You can follow their coverage all day Saturday online, by following both reporters on Twitter. Find Jenna on Twitter at @jlharrison_news. Find Lindsay at @LindsStreet.

Of course we’ll have a roundup of state and local results online late Saturday night once all precincts have reported.

South Carolina’s primaries are just the third to take place so far. As other states stage their primary elections, we’ll be watching closely to see who we’ll be voting for in November.

The nice thing about voting early in the process is that South Carolinians’ vote still matters. Of course every vote matters, but those states voting later in the primary process may feel less motivation as the races narrow.

Already we’ll see on the ballot the names of some candidates who have dropped out of the race. It’s important to understand that and know who you’re voting for before you go to vote. (Do you see how I am channeling my father there?)

Mother would say the same thing. She’s gone now and my old elementary school where she helped so many people fulfill their civic responsibility is now a Jewish community center. But last I checked, the voting booths still appear every Election Day.

If you’re a registered voter, now’s the time to show your children how to participate in the upcoming elections.

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

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Editor's Notes: Zika virus is nothing to sneeze at

Summerville Journal Scene

The Zika virus has the media abuzz.

That was probably a poor pun. It’s not my intention to make light of this serious, sometimes fatal disease. Instead, I have to poke at the virus-like panic that has spread through major media outlets.

As a “member of the media” myself, I have a unique perspective when it comes to news coverage. Most regular news consumers also are well aware of the panic that can follow poor or incomplete reporting.

The word “pandemic” fits nicely in a headline and it has a shock value that sells papers. And, regardless of what any purist may tell you, journalists are in the business of selling papers — or websites, or mobile device apps.

Last week the Post and Courier ran an editorial headlined, “Don’t let Zika induce panic.”

“Zika is exactly the kind of epidemic that tends to cause people to panic — and generates plenty of sensational headlines to boot,” the paper’s editorial board acknowledged. In conclusion, though, they warned, “Panicking is the worst thing we can do.”

As reporter Lindsay Street states in today’s edition, the Zika virus can have little to no effect on most people, although there is a higher risk of birth defects in women who are pregnant.

Because the virus is spread mostly through mosquitoes, Lowcountry residents have perhaps taken a greater interest in the story. After all, mosquitoes are something we know a little about.

Arguably South Carolina could claim the pesky insect as its state bird. Luckily, Louisiana and Minnesota already have dibs on that claim.

Mosquitoes, however, have continued to be the bearer of horrible diseases throughout time.

According to the American Mosquito Control Association, “Mosquitoes cause more human suffering than any other organism — over one million people worldwide die from mosquito-borne diseases every year.”

A million is a big number, but most of those deaths occur in places with poor access to health care, consequently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging people to get educated on this latest virus of note.

The medical world first identified Zika virus in the 1950s, and it has occurred primarily in equatorial regions in Africa, Asia and most recently Central America.

Like its cousins, yellow fever, West Nile virus and other horrible sounding diseases, Zika exhibits itself through flu-like symptoms. In fact many people who contract it don’t even know they have it.

In today’s front page news story, Sarah Hearn with Carolina Women’s Care in Summerville said the best thing people can do is learn about the Zika virus.

“Information is power. I want my patients to be informed,” Hearn said.

She said the best place to find up-to-date information is at the CDC’s website at

The other thing that people can do is to keep their properties clean and free of standing water, use bug spray, see a doctor if you think you may be sick, and don’t panic.

Of course if you want to panic think about this, some of those million people who die every year from mosquito bites contracted many other more ominous diseases: malaria, dengue, encephalitis and yellow fever. Remember West Nile virus? Mosquitoes. Heartworm? Mosquitoes.

As someone who spends quite a bit of time outside, I’ve come to accept that mosquitoes are just one of those annoyances like sunburn and wet socks. OK, wet socks aren’t quite as bad as yellow fever and they don’t cause birth defects in pregnant women.

So perhaps I’m not giving this disease proper respect. But here’s the thing, there are many things out there that can kill you. A little preparation and a moderate amount of education will make you feel more at ease the next time you go outside.

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

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Editor’s Notes: Context adds meaning to hike in the woods

I went for a walk in the woods over the weekend and stumbled across a piece of history.

Sitting on the banks of the Santee River in eastern Berkeley County is a Civil War site managed by the National Forest Service.

The site is quiet now, disturbed only by the gurgle of the slow moving water pushing along the shores and an occasional hoot owl somewhere in the thick grove of pines that surround the site.

Battery Warren is a collection of earthen mounds that once concealed cannons and other guns used by Confederate forces to protect a railroad bridge that crossed the Santee.

There’s not much left of the structure now. Tall pine and hardwood trees have grown up between many of the former structures, but it is still relatively easy to see the layout of the old fort.

An informational plaque at the site explains that slaves built most of the structure that is named after Colonel Samuel Warren, a Revolutionary War hero who once owned the land where the fort is located.

Sitting in a remote part of Francis Marion National Forest, my guess is the site is preserved in an environment very much like it was when soldiers lived and worked there more than 150 years ago.

The visible history of the area, although almost reclaimed by the forest, added significance to my Saturday afternoon hike.

As a journalist, the historical context of things intrigues me.

You’ll notice that most news stories that we write here in the paper contain some piece of history to them. Sometimes the history makes up the bulk of the story. And, quite often, the history is the most important part of the story.

For instance, you may recall a couple weeks ago, we wrote a story about the spillway at Santee Dam. The story began as a simple piece about officials saying that water was going to be released to increase the storage capacity at Lake Marion.

On its face, that piece of news is not that interesting, but to anyone who experienced the flooding last fall, high water is a big deal. So reporter Lindsay Street made sure to include information about the significance of flooding in the area.

We added more context to the story by including information from the National Weather Service, which said water saturation in the ground remained high from the October flooding and people downstream of Lake Marion should be prepared.

In that story, context is everything, especially for residents in the Lowcountry who know it’s wise to keep an eye on the water.

You’ll find another story in today’s paper by Monica Kreber about lawmakers trying to figure out how to equitably fund local schools. Again, not too exciting on its own, but the context of the story is built on the state supreme court ruling that South Carolina has failed to provide a “minimally adequate” education to children in the poorest school districts.

When readers understand that the state is failing school children in poor districts while children in affluent districts see many more resources coming their way, suddenly the story becomes a little more interesting - especially if you live in a poor district.

Likewise, visitors to Warren Battery have little idea what those strange mounds of dirt are along the high banks of the Santee River.

Years ago, however they meant a lot. The threat of advancing Union forces up the Santee kept the soldiers at the fort on their toes. The toil of the slaves that built most of the structure will likely never be known, but a visit to the site will testify to the effort they made.

As the great, great, great grandson of a Civil War soldier, I can appreciate better now the conditions that must have existed during that time period. That context added meaning to my short hike in the woods.

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