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Cahn: A change of pace as a friend returns

Posted: January 31, 2015 1:33 p.m.
Updated: February 2, 2015 1:00 a.m.

After a little more than 14 and a half years, I attended my last Camden City Council work and regular meeting sessions Jan. 27.

In July 2000, I took over the city of Camden beat after another reporter left to work at a different newspaper in Beaufort. That reporter -- a guy named Jim Tatum -- returned in 2003 and moved to the county beat. I stayed on the city.

Jim and I got to be pretty good friends while he worked here and stayed friends after he left again in 2007 to work in Goose Creek and Summerville. Now, he’s back and I’m returning the city beat to him. As Jim’s someone who grew up here, knows everybody and is a great reporter, I knew it was a good move.

It was also a good move for me as the editor of the C-I. This is not a criticism, but the fact is city council work sessions are at 4 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month. Tuesdays (along with Thursday and Fridays) are what we call production days -- the days we are wrapping up the next day’s paper for you to read. 4 p.m. is a critical time for us, the last hour before needing to send pages to the press. It’s important the editor be in the office, then, to see the final copy and design of those pages.

At the same time, we had another beat to cover: education. For years, most of the C-I’s newest recruits have been assigned to the education beat, throwing them into one of the most difficult areas of journalism for newly minted reporters.

Most did very, very good work, but education is an immensely important beat to cover at any newspaper. It affects everybody, whether they have a child in school or not. How?

• An educated workforce attracts business and industry to invest in our county, raising the tax base and providing jobs which, in turn, positively affect the county’s economy in many ways.

• We all pay taxes of one sort or another. Some of our county taxes go to education. Don’t you want to make sure your taxes are being spent wisely?

• The district is one of the largest, if not the largest employer in the county, again affecting the local economy.

• While some of you may not have children in school, you likely have relatives and friends who do. What is taught and how, even what extracurricular activities are offered, are of great interest to the community.

Those are just a few examples. Basically, education is no less important a beat than city or county government, healthcare, and crime and courts. My hope is that my 14 and a half years as a government (city) and healthcare reporter will allow me to bring understanding of education issues to our readers.

When we announced Jim’s return as senior staff writer in Wednesday’s edition, we mentioned some other changes. One is that newly promoted Design Editor Tenell Felder will be designing what is now our People & Places page (formerly Localife) while Jim writes feature stories for it.

As Tenell focuses more on design of the front and People & Places pages, I’m taking over almost all the work on other pages in each edition. As editor, I’m ultimately responsible for all pages in the C-I, so why not be the one who actually works on most of them?

It’s one way I’m personally making sure each and every page of the C-I are as high quality as they can be -- not that they weren’t before, mind you. Tenell did a great job. But with her needing to concentrate on other things, I’m more than willing to be responsible for more content in the paper I edit.

As things evolve on the healthcare beat I’ve covered all these years -- what with a pending change in who runs the local hospital -- I’m looking to do some other things for the community through the newspaper as well.

For example, I hope to concentrate more on special projects and in-depth stories. There are a host of issues in every community, including here in Kershaw County, some good, some bad. Well, maybe not “bad,” but needing to be fixed or better understood.

It’s been said everybody has a story. True. Keep in mind, though, there are degrees of interest. What’s happening in my life may be very interesting to me, but not to you. What someone out in the county is doing may or may not be of interest to the county as a whole.

But there are -- as I said about education -- things which affect all of us or at least might be of interest or entertaining to most of us. In the case of special or in-depth stories, I’m looking for those issues we don’t usually have time to dive into -- the stories which take more time to develop and research, require more vetting, even more attention to detail than the stories we normally publish.

Probably our greatest example was the series a number of years ago on the 1974 murder of Deputy Chris Potter III. I spent nearly a year on that series before the first story reached your hands. I’m not saying I’ll dive into that huge a project again -- but you never know.

I’m looking forward to being your education reporter, covering school board meetings, the pending Central Carolina Technical College expansion and more. Remember what I said about everyone having a story? That goes for every student, teacher, classroom and school. So, I’ll be looking for those special stories, too.

It’s all going to be a definite change of pace for me, but I’m glad I’ll have a returning friend in Jim Tatum to round out our great crew, along with Tenell, Gary Phillips and Tom Didato to help me out.

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