SC Newspaper Censors Criticism Of Elected Officials

“INCUMBENT PROTECTION” ALIVE AND WELL IN THE FOURTH ESTATE A South Carolina newspaper is refusing to print letters to the editor that criticize elected officials – prompting a furious backlash from its readers. The Summerville Journal-Scene – one of several newspapers affiliated with The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier –…


A South Carolina newspaper is refusing to print letters to the editor that criticize elected officials – prompting a furious backlash from its readers.

The Summerville Journal-Scene – one of several newspapers affiliated with The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier – formally announced its bizarre policy this week in response to a letter criticizing a sitting Dorchester County councilman for his poor attendance record and support of tax hikes.

That letter – the original of which can be found HERE – offered specific information about the councilman’s attendance record and his efforts to get a local option sales tax passed during a low-turnout election. In other words it contained criticism that was exclusively based on the councilman’s performance in office – and supported that criticism with specific evidence and examples.

In other words, it’s exactly the sort of legitimate criticism newspapers and websites ought to put into the marketplace of ideas.

Two days after submitting his letter, though, author Steven Wright received a disturbing response from the Journal-Scene‘s editor Frank Johnson.

“We’re  putting a disclaimer in Friday and Wednesday’s SJS about the political letter guidelines, which I have spent the past couple of days deciding on (this is my first political season at the SJS),” Johnson wrote to Wright.

That disclaimer?

The Journal Scene is pleased to run political letters that endorse a specific candidate in local or statewide races. As election day nears, tell us who you’re voting for, and why! Be sure to include your name and address, and be sure the letters are positive in favor of a candidate; attacks on specific candidates, personal or otherwise, will not be accepted.

Attached to this disclaimer was a completely neutered letter to the editor which removed all criticism of the incumbent councilman (the revised letter can be found HERE).

Crazy, huh?

Wright was livid.

“I have never heard of any media source silencing it’s viewers from pointed criticism of any candidate running for office,” he wrote. “I believe that it is incredibly important for readers to see criticisms of candidates because it allows voters to see both sides of every issue and from their they can make their decision on who to vote for.”

Wright added that he viewed the new Journal-Scene policy as “censoring the electorate.”

He’s absolutely correct. This newspaper regularly publishes favorable content about incumbent elected officials – but the moment that a thoughtful, well-documented letter arrives to factually rebuke such pablum, the paper censors it beyond recognition.

This is nothing but thought suppressing incumbent protection, people – an example of the mainstream media using its power to mute criticism, silence debate and insulate elected officials from the consequences of their actions. It’s the stuff of state-sponsored media – not a free and fair Fourth Estate. It’s also yet another glaring example of how the media at all levels is in the tank for big government’s tax-and-spend agenda.

Residents of Dorchester County should be embarrassed … and afraid.

Their “watchdog” isn’t just asleep … it is actively aiding and abetting the elected officials it should be holding accountable for their actions.

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idcydm May 1, 2014 at 8:48 am

One last sentence needs to be added to the disclaimer: Then we can all set around and sing Kumbaya.

euwe max May 1, 2014 at 9:45 am

set around
them’s Texans what say thet.

RogueElephant May 1, 2014 at 10:19 am

You ain’t from around here are you ?

Sandy Shagger May 1, 2014 at 11:01 am

Yes.My guess is Mullins and lives in mom’s basement with ‘Gentleman Jack’.
TV Land has started showing Walker- Texas Ranger and I guess that is where the Texas gig is coming from. :-)

Deo Vindice SC May 1, 2014 at 1:12 pm

negative, I lived in Ft. Worth 6 years, everyone posting here would’nt have any teeth left.

euwe max May 1, 2014 at 2:57 pm


…you really should get some new material – that stuff isn’t exactly cutting edge.

Sandy Shagger May 1, 2014 at 10:06 pm

My apologies.Just trying to ‘lighten the mood’ after you told me you would ‘kill’ and threatened that I should not go to sleep.

euwe max May 2, 2014 at 1:44 am

we liberals have that effect on conservatives… why don’t you take an aspirin and buy a nice new gun in the morning..

euwe max May 1, 2014 at 2:56 pm

You can tell?

jimlewisowb May 1, 2014 at 8:49 am

The State does the same

Fuck’em, Fuck’em all

Fed up voter May 1, 2014 at 10:24 am

I’m with you Jim!

tomstickler May 1, 2014 at 9:08 am

It’s one thing to refuse to publish certain letters — a practice that is ancient — but quite another to edit/censor in a partial manner, then publish over the name of the writer.

That is beyond the pale, even for South Carolina.

You could look it up May 1, 2014 at 7:45 pm

I believe that’s a common practice of newspapers. And not just in SC.

Gregory Geddings May 1, 2014 at 9:08 am

There is no “watchdog” media anywhere in the Lowcountry. As bad as the local newspapers are, they don’t hold a candle to the giggling idiots who infect our local TV screens. These blubbering nitwits seem to delight in mindless chatter amongst themselves as they report on crucial topics such as “Which fast food restaurant makes the best Frostie?” or “Two headed snake found in South Carolina!”

Channel 5 sent weatherman Bill Walsh on a trek to McIntyre, Georgia to report on Honey Boo-Boo. Yeech…

I watch these programs frequently because they are a never ending gift to any writer …as in this spoof I constructed about a fictitious Lowcountry Cooties Telethon

Seriously, these imbeciles should just give up any pretense that they are “journalists” in any true sense of the word. I expect that, any time now, these stations will redesign their sets to emulate the Hee-Haw model…

tomstickler May 1, 2014 at 9:22 am


little enos burdette May 1, 2014 at 10:46 am

Our way of keeping harmony in the home —-
(1) I watched Hee Haw while the wife went out with the girls.
(2) She watched Lawrence Welk while I went out with the boys.

Bible Thumper May 1, 2014 at 1:56 pm

I went to my folks bedroom TV and watched Laugh-in.

euwe max May 1, 2014 at 9:43 am

Jon Stewart thinks he’s so smart – like we don’t know he stole the whole idea of comic news from Hee-Haw, and just changed the set design.

RogueElephant May 1, 2014 at 10:16 am

HAHAHA You are right. Put that old sweater and cap on him plus the mustache and he could pass for Gordie.

Sandy Shagger May 1, 2014 at 11:03 am

Whatever happened to that socialist rag called ‘Patch’??? Does it still publish or is still online?

CorruptionInColumbia May 1, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Who cares?

Deo Vindice SC May 1, 2014 at 12:32 pm

I think it went porn, and is now know as Snatch.

CorruptionInColumbia May 1, 2014 at 1:42 pm

… or, “the hairy patch”.

Richard the long May 1, 2014 at 11:38 am

That wasn’t Gordie, that was Charlie Fahrquarson.

CorruptionInColumbia May 1, 2014 at 12:22 pm

Sounds like the salt and pepper bimbo team on WLTX.

Norma Scok May 1, 2014 at 12:56 pm

Local news of a 108th market TV station is written and produced by recent USC “J-school” female graduates, who neither have the life experience nor education to offer anything of value past the experience of a bj they gave at a party while blitzed out of their mind from cheap booze and even cheaper weed. get what you pay for. And 99% of their stories they get from the post courier anyway.

west_rhino May 1, 2014 at 10:06 am

thus writes the Urinal Scream, in the style of Posthole Career. Not like the bedroom community paper operating under the editorial sarcasm or the late Rod Shealey of “Cockwheat” an “Tyrone de Tiger” fame for ethnic mascots.

nitrat May 1, 2014 at 10:21 am

“We’re putting a disclaimer in Friday and Wednesday’s SJS about the political letter guidelines, which I have spent the past couple of days deciding on (this is my first political season at the SJS),” Johnson wrote to Wright.

Dorchester Resident May 1, 2014 at 11:56 am

A source says Mr. Johnson’s job before becoming the new Editor of the SJS was working in the Post and Courier’s Circulation and Marketing Dept. Perhaps he was sent to the SJS to boost its lagging circulation. Ironically, more people would buy the SJS if it contained impartial factual analysis and watchdog reporting instead of primarily “feel good fluff”. Robust debate between and about competing candidates is in the public interest, not censorship of legitimate fact-based criticism. We would never have known about Watergate or be able to criticize candidates for Obamacare or any other incumbent’s policies under the SJS “positive statements only” policy.

BrigidBernadette May 1, 2014 at 4:15 pm

“…deciding on (this being my first political season at the SJS)…”

Grammar aside, this outrageous ignorance will hopefully make this his last season. What a dunce.

William Wallace May 1, 2014 at 10:22 am

This is another reason elected officials have taken on an air of supremecy and nobility!
The voters have become blind lemmings!

John May 1, 2014 at 10:36 am

What does Frank Johnson have to say for himself, Will? I assumed you contacted him for comment before running the story?

Edgar May 1, 2014 at 10:41 am

Just like when Brad Warthen at The State was protecting Jean Toal a few years ago and poor ole Rick Brundrett was trying to print the truth about just how bad Jean was abusing her power and authority. Brad later admitted on his family blog that he has always been in love with Jean or some such nonsense.

nitrat May 1, 2014 at 3:26 pm

‘Family blog’…I love it.
It does seem to be as dysfunctional as most families and plenty incestuous.

Fred Friendly May 1, 2014 at 10:52 am

I think the mayor of Summerville used to write for the P/C. Most of the good writers at that paper try leave. P/C really is the bottom of the barrel. Really good reporters, like Renee Dudley, who ask hard questions of politicians, get run off. She works for Bloomberg News now. Tony Bartleme, the 2013 Pulitzer Prize nominee, has gone to South Africa.

Gregory Geddings May 1, 2014 at 11:14 am

Good luck to Tony. Years ago he invited me to P&C offices to discuss a scandal involving a massive theft ring at our local Goodwill franchise, Palmetto Goodwill. Roughly 100K worth of donations were siphoned off by crooked employees and customers and sold online.

When I first walked into the meeting room Tony said he could only give me 15 minutes. An hour later we were still talking and he was wildly taking notes and making diagrams on a chalkboard. He was pumped up.

The story was killed because the wrong toes were stepped on. The CEO of Goodwill, who I nicknamed Lyin’ Bob, is still collecting nearly 300k per year in salary and benefits while paying his non-exec employees zip. He even hired his worthless, ignoramus putz of a son to a high paying position within the company. His previous experience was at Frankie’s Fun Park. I could be wrong but I heard a rumor that his main duty there was dislodging fat kids from the water slide.

Move on…no story there…

Philip Branton May 1, 2014 at 11:23 am


Throacic Jimmy, Good Drugs! May 1, 2014 at 11:48 am

“Fat!” is not kind, we prefer


Gregory Geddings May 1, 2014 at 2:24 pm

I stand corrected.

Post and Courier is a joke May 1, 2014 at 4:47 pm

The Post and Courier reminds me of a plantation. And Peter Manigault of “Good-Luck Jonathan.” I only peruse this absurd rag, occasionally, in the check-out line — takes about sixty seconds.

nitrat May 1, 2014 at 3:44 pm

Don’t leave out Jason Spencer. He was not at the P&C long, but did great work for the Spartanburg Herald on the insurance exchange money that came to SC and what was not done with it. He also found out while the legislature and Trikki were screaming about big, bad Obamacare, SC state government, city and county governments across the state + corporations like Piggly Wiggly, Milliken, Blue Cross/Blue Shield and others were getting Obamacare subsidies to provide healthcare to their employees between 55 and 65.
I was googling him a few weeks ago to see if he was still digging in SC, and found he was recently laid off from a VA paper. We need someone like him back here, although he is cut out to do technical stuff for sites like Wonk Blog or Vox.
I think the P&C is terrified of some good reporter finding out who of the Charleston political, social and corporate elite were/are coke snorting buddies of Thomas Ravenel.

Is Diette Couregge still at P&C? She did great education pieces.

Soft Sigh from Hell May 1, 2014 at 8:34 pm

“Tony Bartleme, the 2013 Pulitzer Prize nominee, has gone to South Africa.”
I read just today that he has a year off to write a book about a neurosurgeon in Africa.

anon. May 1, 2014 at 11:10 am

This used to be America…

Philip Branton May 1, 2014 at 11:21 am

Well…….Mr Folks ….if your not the POT calling the Kettle “black”..!!

Want an example……..(yes, you idiot) ..!! Well, just look at the very comment section tagged to this article alone. Mr. Steven Wright’s letter if a cornucopia of informational “dynamite” and YOU fail to be the “Big Sherpa” and instruct your valued comment section on how to respond…!! This is a very subtle form of “censorship”…!!!

DO you Mr. Folks instruct your valued (advertising trove) readers to tag this article to the paper in Orangeburg and see just how much they censorship….. (when you ask a question of Gilda Cobb-Hunter or James Clyburn or anyone on the board of SCSU that relates to issues in Dorchester County..!?)

Dare to wager what would happen if you tagged your “comment posse” to a donkey on a board of a certain corporation in Dorchester County…!? (…of course, asking certain question related to this article…)

Mr. Folks, you can be the little boy in the back of the statehouse hurling “spitballs” via this website all you want too. The question is ……do you have the “guts” to get your valued readership to ASK a certain SPAWAR Atlantic Informational Officer about US Senator Lindsey Graham’s deceptive questioning of Hillary Clinton.

Wil Folks………are you a fighter or NOT…???

Wil, if you want to be a journalist……..go work at the Post and Courier.

Does Lindsey Graham care what your readership understands about a letter written by Steven Wright…?

We here at SPAWAR Atlantic highly wager that Nancy Mace understands…!!!

Wil….its time for MEN to be MEN…, my friend,……(your on the clock)


Philip Branton 8435885089

Deo Vindice SC May 1, 2014 at 11:43 am

I think Will’s point is; Your above style of comment would never be tolerated at SJS. As for myself, I like and enjoy Mr. Folks news, he seems to be damn near right on. The fact you could post your opinion shows me something about why he is different than you, Balls !

Philip Branton May 1, 2014 at 11:52 am

Bravo Deo…..bravo…great retort.

Now, tag this article to this article in the Post and Courier….

When you tag the comment section with this fitsnews article, talk directly to the EDITOR of the Post and Courier and US Senator Lindsey Graham.

Remember, its not how big Mr. Folks “ballz” are…its how WE use his ballz to squeeze an Editors unknown “milk”…!!!

Deo Vindice SC May 1, 2014 at 12:31 pm

Phillip, I’m not trying to argue, just say my opinion. I enjoy Fit’s news. Explain why you are so upset over this artical, I could learn something.

Philip Branton May 1, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Deo….not upset….I just write like it.

Deo, when Mr. Folks or any Editor chooses the topic to be printed or published, they are using the information as a signal or tool or “weapon”. They have a plan.

SO….do readers or comment providers have a “Plan”..? Think about this DEO, who would have more “visibility” in a court of law for a jury being offered information on a case, You (Deo) or I..? DO you know why.? DO you know why it matters..?

Deo Vindice SC May 1, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Anything, and I mean anything that is printed, has a plan. Correct me ?

Deo Vindice SC May 1, 2014 at 1:18 pm

MONEY, Ding Ding !!!

Deo Vindice SC May 1, 2014 at 1:53 pm

Now that your question is answered, how bout mine ? All the side stepping aside. Got Ballz ???

ELCID May 1, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Surprised?? All newspapers have a slant one way or another.
Look at other media, i.e., Fox News, MSNBC.
None much better than Russia’s “Pravda.”
“All the news that is Fit to Print:” according to us.

you know me May 1, 2014 at 12:15 pm

I urge everyone who loves freedom to cancel their subscription, You either love America or you don’t.

Bill Rogers May 1, 2014 at 12:16 pm

Why should a newspaper risk getting sued over a unsubstantiated charge in a letter to the editor. An editor is just that…someone who decides what his or her readers want to read. You are making a mountain out of a mole hill.

Deo Vindice SC May 1, 2014 at 1:13 pm

SC, plain and simple.

Dorchester Resident May 1, 2014 at 1:21 pm

Bill, you must not understand. Last week the SJS published a letter praising Councilman Byars entitled “Walk the Walk.” Steven Wright attempted to publish a refutation of that letter showing facts upon which Wright opined that Byars was deficient. The SJS refuses to publish Wright’s facts and opinion, even though those facts are readily verifiable, because the SJS has adopted a NEW POLICY of refusing to publish any criticism of any candidate, no matter how valid the facts upon which the criticism is based. That policy ensures the public receives only one-sided, skewed information about a candidate, i.e., the favorable information the candidate wants the public to read, without printing contrary information. The newspaper easily could verify facts in a letter simply by requesting verification.

Dorchester Resident May 1, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Hope your are not the Bill Rogers who is head of the Press Association. If you are, God help us! If you are and don’t get why wholesale censorship of any criticism of a candidate’s record is wrong and not in the public interest, as opposed to robust debate about candidates and issues, that suggests why the new editor of the SJS does not get it either.

Dorchester Resident May 1, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Let’s check out the unsubstantiated charges the SJS will not publish about Councilman Byars: (1) he misses a lot of official meetings — readily verifiable; (2) he texts during Council meetings — verifiable; (3) he voted to not consider a ban on texting by Councilmen during Council meetings — on the public record; and (4) Council and Byars will not disclose his texts in response to FOIA request – verifiable. During the 2012 elections the SJS printed letter after letter after letter criticizing candidates. Why has the SJS adopted the opposite policy now?

Philip Branton May 1, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Talk about censorship………where is this article in FITSNEWS….or the State….or the Post and Courier….or at SPAWAR Atlantic…?

Where is US Senator Lindsey Graham being questioned by NANCY MACE concerning our SLAVERY to fossil fuel….?

Dorchester Resident May 1, 2014 at 4:09 pm

Part of Speaker Harrell’s House District is in Dorchester County. Under the SJS’s new policy, no mention could be made in a letter to the editor about the desirability of voting for Harrell due to Harrell’s ethics case going to a Grand Jury, possible indictment, maneuvers to remove the Attorney General and avoid prosecution, and related matters. All the SJS would publish is praise of the Speaker. Sounds like Russia, not America.

You goobers May 1, 2014 at 7:44 pm

Private enterprise, how does it work?

Chilicheese Burger May 1, 2014 at 11:51 pm

The worst paper in the state for censorship is the Spartanburg Herald. Everything that Fitsnews runs on USC Upstate has been provided to the Spartanburg herald and they never print the truth from fear of losing one advertising dollar.
The Vice Chancellor of Information Technology at USC Upstate has lived in Wisconsin for 3 years and the university pays her $10,000 a year in a travel allowance. Her salary is $150,000. Hey it is only our tax dollars going to be spent in Wisconsin. Chancellor Tom Moore says USC Upstate has the best IT department of any university anywhere and the Skul is irreplaceable.

Ted E Bear May 2, 2014 at 9:22 am

Nope, the T&D in orangeburg has that beat by a country mile. VERY pro sc state.

Philip Branton May 2, 2014 at 10:18 am

Teddy……….Mr Roosevelt would smile

Thomass May 3, 2014 at 2:39 pm

Well, one of the reasons the letter was likely not published in full is because it’s waayyy too long. Also, it is slam full of hearsay and inaccuracies, such as the assertion a councilman’s text messages on his private phone are subject to FOIA.

anon. July 18, 2014 at 5:23 pm

They are in many jurisdictions.
What other hearsay and inaccuracies do you see ThomASS?


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