The Return of Investigative Journalism

October 1, 2015

Inside Insight

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searchPost and Courier compilation is latest evidence that South Carolina reporters are back on the investigative beat.

When SCPC began The Nerve in 2010, we did so because investigative journalism was at an all-time low in South Carolina. With all the upheavals facing print and broadcast journalism, politicians and the agencies they empower were too often getting a free pass from the media. Their statements were taken at face value, their explanations left unexamined and unverified.

Much has changed since then, and we think The Nerve has had a lot to do with that change. TheGreenville News, for example, has recently created an investigative news office, and it will be run by our own Rick Brundrett. We’re sorry to see Rick go, but it’s gratifying to know that he’ll still be keeping tabs on South Carolina politicians.

More evidence of this encouraging trend emerged last week, when the Charleston Post and Courierpublished a lengthy report titled, “Capitol Gains: Candidates Enrich Themselves with Campaign Cash, Gifts, and Travel.” If you’re new to South Carolina State House politics, it’s a bracing read – all about how state lawmakers routinely use their campaign accounts for personal gain and career advancement.

We’re thrilled the P&C is investigating State House powerbrokers. And indeed some of the findings from the paper’s story were first broken on The Nerve. We learn, for example, that David Hiott (R-Pickens) used his campaign money to buy printed material from a printing company he owns. The Nerve revealed that in January. We learn that Rep. Alan Clemmons (R-Horry) “forked over more than $25,000 for neckties and scarves from a company in Taiwan.” The Nerve broke that story back in December of 2014. From the P&C report we read that Sen. Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence) spent more than $100,000 in campaign money on “gifts” to various constituents. That story ran on The Nerve in February of 2014. The report tells us that Rep. Brian White (R-Anderson), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, made large contributions from his campaign account to a nonprofit organization that employs his wife. The Nerve broke that story in October of last year. The P&C reported that Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D-Kershaw), together with several other lawmakers, flew on a junket to Turkey – “$7,000 trips provided by South Carolina Dialogue Foundation, since renamed the Atlantic Institute-South Carolina, and unspecified Turkish sponsors.” That story first ran on The Nerve in March of 2012.

There was plenty of original reporting in the Post and Courier’s story, too. Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, for example, used campaign money to buy paintings by her own husband. Wow.

All in all, we consider this return to investigative journalism a good thing for taxpayers and citizens, and a bad thing for the elite political class that’s run South Carolina for too long. We look forward to more.