Band-aid approach: I’ve been offered and accepted a full-time position that will mean I no longer will be able to produce Quorum, effective today.
I make this announcement with all the mixed feelings one might expect — the past 20 months have been a journey of hope and faith fueled by a desire to perform a necessary journalistic role at a time when the population seems to be growing as rapidly as the number of journalists actively covering it is shrinking.
Along the way, that faith — that people would care — was rewarded with a steady tickle of subscribers, each of whom I felt and feel a personal connection to and am deeply grateful for. The hope was that the site eventually would grow to employ more writers covering more of Richland and Lexington Counties, and that hope remains despite this announcement.
Over the past few weeks as this opportunity began to develop, I’ve attempted to find a successor to continue the work without success.
Those I reached out to quietly either were happy where they were or retired and comfortable. An expensive ad on a national journalistic website failed to produce any qualified candidates.
Should one emerge, I stand ready to hand over the reins of a site that grew from unproven idea to a profitable business that can support a determined journalist and carries the potential to do much more than that.
I hope one does, because the work needs doing. For more than two years now, I’ve written approximately two in-depth investigative pieces per week on everything from the University of South Carolina to bingo rackets to school boards to local government. Along the way, reporting from this site has led to 11 indictments (so far) regarding hospitality-tax fraud, the removal by the governor of an entire board of commissioners (Richland County Recreation Commission) and positive changes to work conditions, pay and benefits for first responders to cite just a few examples of impact.
Along the way it is no stretch to say I’ve averaged about two all-nighters a week to be able to produce the kind of in-depth, researched pieces I think readers deserve.
It’s time for someone else to take the reins.
As for the opportunity, all I’m at liberty to say is that I move forward in service of the public good and will share more at a later date.
As for the site, no further subscriptions will be taken and no further charges will come.
In closing, please continue to support good journalism where you find it. Journalism is an honorable profession but one crippled by online competition and attacked by savvy politicians who attempt to discredit reputable sources criticizing them for personal gain, not the public good.
Local media matters, and it’s dying before our eyes as cut after newsroom cut mean there is no longer a reporter (and hasn’t been for a long time) at every municipal (Columbia, Lexington, Cayce, West Columbia, Irmo), school board (Richland One, Richland Two, Lexington One, Lexington Two, Lexington-Richland Five, etc.) or even county county council meeting, much less the zoning, work session and committee meetings of each.
With fewer and fewer reporters to do the same amount of work and more, it’s no wonder that investigative journalism has gone by the wayside in many cases because bodies simply can’t be taken off what few beats are covered well to dive into deeper issues that require significant outside research time, often take weeks or even months to complete and require skill sets honed over years of professional experience. And sadly, those veteran reporters were among the first targeted by industry cuts because they carried the highest salaries, and they have since all but disappeared from newsrooms that have no choice but rely on young reporters hired as cheaply as possible.
When I started at The State in 1999, we had six writers in the sports department alone with more than 30 years experience — Bob Cole, Bob Gillespie, Bob Spear, Ernie Trubiano, Pat Robertson and Bill Mitchell. Now there’s only four writers total in that department, with only one having been there more than three years. The same story exists in every other department of the paper.
What we’re losing — institutional knowledge, deep local connections, decades of experience — is irreplaceable. Journalism is the public’s insurance policy against corruption, and at present it is a weakened, shaken and dizzied creature.
I hope sites such as this can help spark a recovery, because the role of investigative journalism — holding government and elected officials accountable and exposing corruption and fraud — is critically important not just to the safeguarding of our rights but to the rule of law and the future of a free press.
I’m going to keep the site up as long as financially possible and continue to hope for a hand in which to place the baton. Until then, I’m deeply grateful for the support and encouragement you’ve given. I will never forget it.
To my advertisers — Soda City, Bourbon, ABC Columbia, Mr. Friendly’s/Cellar on Greene/Solstice, Palmetto Citizens FCU, Cromer Law — your support has meant the world, and I remain forever at your disposal.
To you who read this, thank you for caring and sharing this journey with me. I appreciate you more than you know.
If you like, feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org any time. I’d love to hear from you.
From my family to yours, sincerely, thank you.