Friday, September 26, 2008

Brief comments on 9/25/08 Johnsonian

Here's my take on the latest edition of The Johnsonian, student newspaper at Winthrop University.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

If you drive and drink you'll be on police video

They say there's no more privacy in today's world.

Might be right.

Take the case of public official Paul Lindemann. He's a member of the York County, S.C., Council (key part of local government.) That means he holds elected office in York County.

Now he's in trouble.

Police stopped him in Columbia a few months ago and charged him with drunk driving.

After giving him a sobriety test, police arrested and handcuffed Mr. Lindemann and put him in a patrol car.

Police say he was "highly intoxicated."

Innocent until proven guilty, folks, and Lindemann has not yet gotten his day in court.

He's requested a trial.

Meanwhile, The (Rock Hill, S.C.) Herald filed a freedom of information request and got the police video of Lindemann's arrest. (He didn't do such a good job on the sobriety test.)

The video is now on the Internet (obviously).

More info. than we want to know?


Or legitimate news?

You be the judge. Click on the link in the headline above and watch. This could be you on camera. Or me. Or a member of our family.

Whaddya think about personal privacy, people?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Comments about The Johnsonian

This blog entry is for the staff of our student newspaper, The Johnsonian. (I'm faculty adviser to the newspaper.)

It's a video of my take on the Sept. 18 edition of the newspaper.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Becoming a brand

All you bloggers or Webby people out there--have you ever thought of your blog as helping develop you as a brand?

This might be something you haven't given much thought to, but how can your blogging help promote your "uniqueness" as a person or even as a writer or journalist?

We have our favorite brands of beer, bread, clothing, shoes...

What sort of brand are you--based on what someone might intuit from your blog?

One way you can become a brand (as a blogger) is through your photograph. Is your photo on your blog site?

Read more about this brand stuff from a guy presumably in the know about it. The link above will take you there.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remembering Sept. 11, 2001

My friend, Brian Shaw, and his wife Tina, have created a video that they've posted to YouTube, commemorating 9/11.

Really good piece of work. Turn your sound up and click on the link above.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Great to be alive self video. Hope this works.

Shot a brief video of myself. New toy. Can't resist playing with it.

Story about the United Way of Charlotte

Here's material I wrote and which got published in the Sept. 2008 edition of Publishers' Auxiliary, a journalism trade publication that serves the National Newspaper Association.

It's about the United Way of Charlotte brouhaha.

By Larry Timbs

Special to Publishers’ Auxiliary

These are tough times for America’s newspapers, what with all the downsizing or so-called "right sizing" of newsrooms, declining newspaper revenues and profits, outsourcing of journalism and advertising and the countless predictions of gloom and doom awaiting just over the print journalism horizon.

And if you swallow all the depressing observations about newspapers, you’d think that readers are abandoning them like rats scurrying from a sinking ship.

But not so fast, all you journalism pessimists.

Consider, for example, what happened in late June at The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer.

For when The Observer ran a story about the 2007 annual salary of the president of Charlotte United Way, readers let the newspaper know that they were: one, yes, definitely out there; and two, thirsting for more information about a nonprofit organization that paid its president in Charlotte a whopping $1.2 million last year.

"The volume (of reader response) surprised me," said Observer reporter Kerry Hall, author of the June 25 story that fleshed out and provided context for the blockbuster United Way salary story first reported by the Observer’s news partner, WCNC-TV.

Hall’s piece described in detail how the top United Way executive in Charlotte had leveraged a compensation package that one head of a charity watchdog organization called "outrageous."

Her story drew on information from the Charlotte United Way’s tax filing--a public record–and from an interview with the chair of the board of directors of the United Way in Charlotte, who defended the local president’s salary as being commensurate with her outstanding work. Hall’s story also included a review of financial records of executives of United Ways in St. Louis and Atlanta (whose salaries were considerably lower than their counterpart in Charlotte) and an interview with a nonprofit charities consultant who wondered why the Charlotte president’s retirement benefits, accounting for a big part of her annual compensation in 2007, wasn’t spread out over more than one year.

Angry readers wrote on, in response to the coverage, that they were shocked, miffed, hurt and tricked by an organization that for many years had extracted money from them.

"Does Gloria King (president of the Charlotte United Way) donate to the United Way?" asked one of them.

Wrote another: "...Screw this B/S organization; sure they’ve done some good for the community, but this is the last straw–paying this broad that kind of money is obscene."

"I will never, never again give my money to the United Way," another promised.

Others expressed similar outrage:

--"Let her (the Charlotte United Way president) contribute to her own damn retirement account like the rest of us."

–"No Way for United Way! I will donate my hard-earned money directly to a real non-profit charity organization that uses common sense and truly appreciates my monetary donation."

–"The well-oiled machine of corporate pressure to focus on the United Way will definitely be challenged now."

–"I’ve been put under the squeeze to "tithe" a portion of my meager paycheck to the UW at work. Good think I demurred; I’d hate to think I was funding someone’s $822K retirement account when I have almost nothing in my own!"

–"After reading this, anyone who gives a penny to the United Way is a fool. I am changing my contribution to ZERO today!"

For its part, the Observer on its June 27 opinion page declared that the Charlotte United Way’s $1.2 million executive compensation package "raised as many eyebrows in the Piedmont as a go-go dancer at a church picnic."

Reporter Hall, 37, said that she personally received about 100 emails and phone calls. It left her feeling good about what she does at the Observer, where she works on the business desk–focusing on the economy and workplace safety.

Readers hungered for more information about nonprofit organizations, Hall said.

"They wanted context and they wanted to know what other (nonprofits) were doing," she said.

Readers also told Hall, who noted the Charlotte United Way was difficult to deal with when she sought information, that they were aware of the current struggles of the newspaper industry. That said, readers implored her to continue with her coverage of nonprofits.

"That was reassuring," said Hall, with the Observer for the past five years. "It made me feel a little better about the future."

Spinoff United Way salary story at sister newspaper in Rock Hill, S.C.

One byproduct of Hall’s United Way coverage was a story by reporter Matt Garfield of the nearby (Rock Hill, S.C.) Herald–a sister McClatchy newspaper of the Charlotte Observer.

Garfield’s June 29 Herald story noted that while the Charlotte United Way president got paid $1.2 million last year, the president of the United Way of York County, S.C. (circulation area for The Herald) earned only $65,625, plus $10,481 in retirement benefits in 2007, according to an audit. Garfield’s piece also noted that the six full-time employees and three part-time workers at the York County United Way were paid a total of $203,110, according to the audit.

His story in The Herald also noted that leaders of the United Way of York County feared a backlash in fund-raising from the intense public outrage over the widely seen as excessive United Way executive salary in Charlotte, which borders York County.

As did the Observer’s Hall, Garfield relied on documents and interviews to flesh out the story about a local nonprofit. But in his case, the reporting seemed to go easier, probably because the York County chapter wanted it made immediately clear that it was not affiliated with its Charlotte counterpart. No way did the York County chapter want its supporters or potential supporters to think its executive was overpaid.

"As far as the United Way salaries (in York County), it was very easy to get them," Garfield wrote in an email. "The United Way folks provided me with the records, because they w anted to show that they are not like the Charlotte office. They also wanted to show the salary ranges are very reasonable. They gave me some kind of federal document they are required to complete every year.. . The agency tries to be transparent as a way of maintaining trust of donors."

Larry Timbs teaches journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., where he’s also faculty adviser to the university’s student newspaper, The Johnsonian.


By Larry Timbs

Special to Publishers’ Auxiliary

So what if you’re working at a small community weekly or daily newspaper without the staffing of a Charlotte Observer (290,000-circulation daily) or even of The (Rock Hill, S.C.) Herald (34,000-circulation daily), and you want to offer your readers coverage of a local nonprofit organization.

Should you give it a try, even if you have to go it alone?

Absolutely, according to reporter Kerry Hall of The Charlotte Observer who wrote in late June about the astonishingly high annual salary ($1.2 million for 2007) of the president of the Charlotte United Way.

"A small paper can do this," Hall said. "People are always interested in what their local nonprofits are doing, and this is not an investigative project that required a lot of time."

What it did require, she said, was examining tax form 990, which nonprofits are required to file and which reporters in some instances can access online.

Hall also did some good old fashioned shoe leather reporting–as in interviewing people at the United Way and asking them for more detail on the information they’re required to provide on tax forms.

Jay Bender, general counsel to the S.C. Press Association and many of its member newspapers since 1980, thinks that especially in instances where a nonprofit agency’s employee salaries seem overly large or shocking, the public should be kept informed.

"I do believe community papers should cover local nonprofit organizations, and I think members of the public would have an interest in the coverage," said Bender, Reid H. Montgomery FOI chair at the University of South Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communications. "Interest will be increased in those cases where it might appear that a disproportionate share of the collections goes to pay the salary of the chief.

"On the other side of the coin," Bender wrote via e-mail, "giving recognition to those nonprofits that do a good job of getting money back to the community will be helpful to citizens wishing to donate money."

Bender said that a good source of information about tax-exempt nonprofit organizations is IRS form 990, which a nonprofit is required to provide a reporter or anyone else upon request.

Doug Pardue, special assignments editor for the Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C., said that even though nonprofits are required to make their IRS form 990 public–available for examination at their main offices–that often is not the reality, because some don’t know the law.

A reporter encountering trouble getting IRS form 990 from a nonprofit can get it from an online database called Guidestar ( which describes itself on its Web site as "the leading source of nonprofit information."

Some basic nonprofit financial information is readily available from Guidestar; more detailed or explicit information, such as the salaries of key players at the nonprofit, can be had for a fee.

"990s give the names of officers, salaries of key figures, income streams and expenses," Pardue noted in an email. "Salaries are a good thing to check out because sometimes non-profits give an awful lot to themselves. Some also give a lot of business to for-profit companies owned by family members or friends. You can also check with the Secretary of State in SC who maintains a list of non-profits who spend too much for administration and those that don’t."

John Robinson, editor of the News & Record in Greensboro, N.C., sees the salaries of executives or presidents of nonprofits as a "lightning rod for attention" for readers.

"When the salaries of chief executives are out of whack with what a "normal" person makes, that’s something people are interested in," said Robinson, editor of the News & Record since 1999.

He says that as a matter of routine the News & Record, about a 100,000-circulation daily, reports on the salaries of non-profit execs when they get hired and when they leave.

"We report their salaries because we can," Robinson wrote in an email. "That’s a bit flippant but by that I mean the salary is public. . . (P)eople deserve to know how the money at non-profits such as the United Way is spent. If I am going to give $100 to, say, the Red Cross, then I want to know how much of that is going to be spent helping people in need and how much is spent on administration.

"...Non-profits are big in this community," Robinson added. "Several of the foundations have been a key–probably the key–to helping determine the future of Greensboro. Various studies have shown that Greensboro has a higher than normal percentage of people who are generous givers to charity and non-profits such as the United Way. So, yes, I think people are interested in knowing where their donations go."


After I emailed you my stories (on community newspapers and nonprofit organizations), Jerry Bellune sent me some good info. If possible, please add the following graphs to the end of my piece that concludes with the quote from John Robinson of the News & Record.

Here would be the new ending to my story #2 . (The graph, below, quoting Robinson, was in the original message/story I sent to you. The part about Jerry Bellune is new.)

"...Non-profits are big in this community," Robinson added. "Several of the foundations have been a key–probably the key–to helping determine the future of Greensboro. Various studies have shown that Greensboro has a higher than normal percentage of people who are generous givers to charity and non-profits such as the United Way. So, yes, I think people are interested in knowing where their donations go."

If readers don’t seem overly interested in nonprofits, they should be, because, as Jerry Bellune puts it: “All of us want to do our part but none of us want to be played for patsies by greedy fundraisers.”

Bellune, longtime (now retired) editor and owner of a respected weekly newspaper in Lexington, S.C., says it’s healthy for nonprofits if local newspapers keep a vigilant watch on them, reporting on both the good they do and how they spend their money “and what part of it goes to fundraising and administration.”

In some cases, according to Bellune, a nonprofit organization might receive money from U.S. grants or other tax-supported funds. If that’s the case, they’re susceptive to federal or state FOIA laws, and must release financial information to the press and public. If they balk, after an FOIA request, the newspaper can write about this.

“Give then an opportunity to tell why they refused or state that they refused to offer an explanation,” Bellune said. “Embarrassment helps. You’ll anger a few non-profit advocates but you’ll win respect in the community at large.”

Larry Timbs is a journalism professor at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., where he’s also faculty adviser to the university’s student newspaper, The Johnsonian.

Astronomer finds black hole in his marriage

This just in--from the Onion Broadcasting System.

An astronomer has discovered why his marriage is on the rocks.

Turn up your sound and click on the above link.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Video of yours truly

This is interesting. First time I've tried to upload a video of myself. I held the camera and spoke into it. Bold experiement in multimedia blogging.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Where do they stand on the crucial issues?

Should Americans be allowed to own automatic weapons?

Should a woman be allowed to have the final say on whether she wants/needs to abort her baby?

Should American combat forces remain in Iraq--at least for the forseeable future?

Should college be the birthright of every American citizen?

Here's a Web site, apparently sponsored by an independent, neutral entity, that helps guide our thinking as voters.

Sarah Palin music video

Here's a borderline spicy video about Sarah Palin.

VP material or not?

You decide.

By the way (as an aside), remember John McCain and Paris Hilton?

McCain once said a few disparaging things about Barack Obama, comparing Obama's popularity to that of Ms. Hilton.

Here's a link to a Paris Hilton video about McCain.