The state of The State is not encouraging


Henry Haitz, the publisher of The State, has a note today about the latest round of layoffs at the Columbia, SC, newspaper. Highlights include that executive editor Mark Lett will add the editorial and opinion pages to his duties, to fill the void left by Brad Warthen’s departure.

Lett is a talented journalist and adroit manager, but one suspects that even the most gifted of leaders would be discouraged by the shrinking staff and declining morale evident at The State.

Lett has had opportunities over the past few years to jump to larger papers, and this morning he may be regreting not having moved on at some point.

The problem is, however, that The State’s situation is no different than that at almost any other newspaper.

Haitz’s letter is reprinted below.

To our readers,

We made announcements Tuesday regarding how The State Media Co. is responding to a worsening economy. Like many businesses, we must reduce costs. These decisions are difficult and painful, and we had to part with professionals whose work has enriched this newspaper and this community. These job eliminations were not about performance, but are necessary because we simply cannot afford the same level of expense.

Among the positions eliminated was vice president and editorial page editor. Of course, that’s Brad Warthen. Brad has guided the editorial and opinion pages of this newspaper for nearly 12 years. He is a remarkable journalist and writer, with keen understanding of the issues most vital to our community and our state. I know many readers appreciated Brad’s insight, even when they disagreed with his opinion. Which is as it should be.

Mark E. Lett, our vice president and executive editor, will add the editorial and opinion pages to his news responsibilities, effective March 21. He has been a newspaperman for four decades, including 11 years as editor of The State’s award-winning newsroom. He also directed the newsroom and editorial pages of another newspaper before joining The State. Our opinion and commentary pages will continue to operate independently of the news department, and I am confident that they will continue to provide an essential and engaging forum.

Our editorial pages will continue to feature the unique work of Warren Bolton and Cindi Scoppe, associate editors with unmatched experience in this community. Among their other recognitions, Cindi is a former South Carolina Journalist of the Year, and Warren will be honored next week by the South Carolina Press Association as the state’s most outstanding editorial writer for 2008.

These are difficult times for America’s newspapers. Despite the challenges, we remain committed to sustaining The State as South Carolina’s most authoritative and most important source of news, information and commentary.


President and Publisher


Why nationalizing banks is bad policy


USA Today editorializes here that nationalizing some failing banks, at least on a temporary basis, may be unavoidable.

“Nationalization would involve the government taking a majority stake in a bank in return for cash the bank needs to bolster its balance sheet,” the paper writes. “Once revived, shares owned by the government can be resold, allowing it to resume life as a private company, while taxpayers recoup some of their money.”

While one shouldn’t expect in-depth economic thought from a publication that thrives on the written equivalent of sound bites, nationalizing banks is bad government policy, even by USA Today’s shallow standards.

Yes, many of the country’s largest banks are struggling. That’s what happens in a free-market society when a company doesn’t perform to customer satisfaction or when politicians skew the playing field, both of which have happened here.

But the last thing banks need, as J.D. Foster of the Heritage Foundation explains so succinctly, is Uncle Sam in their boardrooms. 

“They need clarity, transparency, consistency, and capital above all – clarity as to the value of the assets they hold, transparency of their own books so other market participants regain confidence in their value and viability, consistency of policies from Washington so markets are no longer buffeted by the latest gust of uncertainty-enhancing policymaking, and once, these pieces are in place, the banks will need to raise private capital.

“Nationalization, either creeping or full Monty, does nothing to get at the price discovery process or the processes that follow from it. Further, nationalization only becomes relevant when the capital infused is or has the potential to become significantly greater than the banks’ exposure to loss.  Are we willing to consider that size federal footprint?”

To USA Today’s credit, it did provide space for an opposing view, giving Donald Boudreaux of George Mason University the opportunity to make the crucial point that nationalized firms are first and foremost political animals.

“Politicians’ incentives differ radically from those of private owners,” he writes. “Few politicians look past the next election or beyond the familiar interest groups whose support is crucial. If a nationalized bank would best serve consumers — and its bottom line for taxpayers — over time by scaling back its current workforce today, politicians will likely resist the move if well-organized workers mobilize against it.”

If a bank can’t make it, it’s better to let it fail than have it become an arm of the state, and thereby have its employees, shareholders and customers be subject to the whims and fancies of politicians whose only goal is getting through the next election cycle.

Being booted from Mauritania ain’t all bad


For the record, Israeli diplomats probably would never come out and say it, but one could imagine there weren’t a whole lot of sad faces among those affected when Israel closed its embassy in Mauritania earlier this month.

Diplomatic relations between Mauritania, one of only three Arab countries to have full ties with the Jewish state, have been strained since Israel launched a military offensive in the Gaza Strip in late December, Reuters reported.

Israel officially closed its embassy in the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott on March 6.

With Mauritania being one of the world’s poorest countries, one can imagine that the country isn’t atop the dream list of postings for Israeli diplomats. Consider:

  • Three quarters of the country is either desert or semidesert, and severe, extended drought has been increasing desertification since the 1960s.
  • Much of the population still depends on agriculture and livestock for its livelihood. 
  •  The country’s civilian government was overthrown in August 2008.

On the plus side, Mauritania officially banned slavery in 1981, though the question of whether it’s still being practiced is a sore subject, according to the BBC.

War of Independence gets its own magazine


David Reuwer’s love of history has led him to begin publishing American Revolution, a magazine about the United States’ war of independence.

The Camden, SC, resident told The State newspaper that his publication is a “hybrid designed to appeal to scholarly and popular audiences, (and) will focus not just on battles but also on the nation’s history and culture from 1750 to the acceptance of the Constitution in 1789.”

“South Carolina has over 345 documented Revolutionary War battle, engagement or skirmish sites — more than any other state,” Reuwer told The State, adding that one of his goals is to promote education, awareness and preservation of state sites. “There’s not a county that doesn’t have an engagement of some size.”

Key Revolutionary War battles in South Carolina were fought at Fort Moultrie, Cowpens, Kings Mountain and Camden.

Reuwer printed 5,000 issues of the inaugural issue at a cost of $10,000. They were sent out in January to people and groups in 35 states. He hopes to publish five times a year.

More information about subscribing to American Revolution can be found here.