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South Carolina editorial roundup

February 20, 2019

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

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Feb. 15

The Times and Democrat of Orangeburg on a bill requiring federal agencies to work more closely with HBCUs on funding for students:

Lawmakers in Washington are taking steps to ensure historically black colleges and universities across the country get the funding they need to fulfill their important missions. With Orangeburg home to South Carolina State University and Claflin University, and Voorhees College and Denmark Technical College located in The T&D Region, fostering the future of the institutions is high on the agenda here.

Republican U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina has been joined by Delaware Democratic Sen. Chris Coons and others in sponsoring the HBCU Partners Act, legislation requiring federal agencies to work more closely with HBCUs. The bill, introduced in February and already passed by the Senate, would make law of a 2017 executive order from President Donald Trump that instructed government institutions to work alongside HBCUs to locate opportunities for federal grants and government contracts for students.

Scott, the Senate’s only black Republican, announced introduction of the legislation during the Feb. 6 HBCU fly-in, an annual event during which HBCU presidents from around the country travel to Washington to meet with lawmakers and other officials. It would require federal agencies to submit annual agency plans to the secretary of education and the executive director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs. The plans must outline key goals and objectives within each agency aimed toward furthering HBCU success.

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Those missions are of major importance in Orangeburg, where S.C. State, South Carolina’s only publicly supported HBCU, and Claflin, the oldest HBCU in the state, are vital across the board from educational opportunity to community quality of life. And they have major economic impact.

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The only way HBCUs can truly reap the full benefits of the Trump executive order is through this legislation, which also codifies the President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs, ensuring an ongoing avenue for the institutions’ priorities and policy concerns to be raised.

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Online: https://thetandd.com/

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Feb. 19

The Post and Courier of Charleston on police transparency with the public:

Residents rely on their police department to keep them informed about apparent crimes in their area, so withholding basic information from the public sends the wrong message to people who need to know what is happening in their own backyard.

Mount Pleasant resident Ann Witherspoon was found dead of a gunshot wound at her home Feb. 9. On Friday, she had been dead at least six days, but the public was not told about her death until The Post and Courier began asking questions about it, according to reporter Gregory Yee.

That’s unacceptable. Residents should be told as quickly as possible when police are investigating a shooting death. They certainly should be alerted if there’s a possibility that a violent offender is on the loose.

The scant information about the Witherspoon case became public only after the newspaper followed up on a tip. Mount Pleasant police compounded their lack of transparency by releasing a heavily redacted incident report, an unusual move that raised more questions. They also arrested and charged someone with grand larceny of a motor vehicle in connection with the case but did not immediately identify that person.

Perhaps there is a compelling reason for such extreme secrecy — no one wants to see a perpetrator escape justice — but it’s hard to say since police had not provided one as of Monday afternoon. Neither had the town, which issued a statement from Mayor Will Haynie last week that revealed little more than his confidence in the police department.

The state’s Freedom of Information Act spells out what government info the public is entitled to and the exceptions that allow agencies to hold back info. The newspaper’s attorney, Jay Bender, said that police agencies sometimes lean too far toward keeping details from the public.

“In many instances, cops have a serious problem with believing that the public needs to know,” Mr. Bender told Mr. Yee.

This could be such a case, but no can say for sure. In most instances the FOIA provides clear guidelines for governments and the public, but it does include language that can leave wiggle room for a less certain interpretation of the law. And, at times, police have made creative use of those interpretations to the public’s detriment.

Regardless, in striking a balance on releasing information, police should be biased toward giving residents as much info as possible. That is not always a comfortable decision for investigators, but it’s the right thing to do. That’s how police departments build and maintain trust with the public.

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Online: https://www.postandcourier.com/

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Feb. 20

Index-Journal of Greenwood on a small-town Alabama newspaper editorial calling for a resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan:

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The First Amendment. There’s a reason it’s first. And there is a reason we strongly support and stand by this particular amendment, as should every American. That, despite the broad-brush accusations of “fake news” and “enemy of the people” seemingly applied to all media these days.

We don’t deny there are some media that are less scrupulous and lacking in journalism ethics. There are bad examples in every trade and profession, including ours. Still, we believe the majority, especially more local-centric newspapers, are simply trying to do a good job of informing and reflecting their communities.

That said, it can be difficult to support some papers’ First Amendment rights; yet, we do. Even in the case of one newspaper in Linden, Alabama, where publisher of the Democrat-Reporter, Goodloe Sutton, wrote in an editorial that “the Ku Klux Klan to night ride again” against “Democrats in the Republican Party and Democrats (who) are plotting to raise taxes in Alabama.”

In his Feb. 14 editorial, Sutton railed against Democrats — which, he said, included Democrats within the GOP — who are “plotting to raise taxes in Alabama.”

Well and good that he wants to combat increased taxes. We get that, but to suggest that the Klan is the best means to do so is beyond ludicrous. It’s downright scary.

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The Montgomery Advertiser interviewed Sutton for a story about his editorial stance. If it were all hyperbole he was espousing to make a point, he had opportunity aplenty to clear things up ...

The First Amendment, within reason, gives editors and publishers broad privilege in expressing the newspaper’s viewpoints. Goodloe Sutton certainly takes his opinions to the brink and while we certainly do not agree with nor condone his opinion, we do support his First Amendment rights of expression. Perhaps he knows his readership well and is speaking what the majority believe and would support. Sad as that might seem to be, it is an element of our precious freedoms. He is free to express his paper’s views and readers are free to support him and his paper. We can only hope such an opinion would otherwise and elsewhere draw great criticism.

Online: http://www.indexjournal.com/