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Column: The city/county council switcheroo
Martin Cahn (2019).jpg
Martin L. Cahn

Today, readers will notice that my byline appears with our coverage of Kershaw County Council’s meeting while Camden Media Co. Senior Writer Gee Whetsel’s appears atop our story on Camden City Council’s meeting.

When I became editor again, I promised to be as transparent as possible about what we do since we expect the same from the public bodies we write about, so here we are.

The decision for Gee and I to switch was made after we determined that the time and effort to cover county council was greater than that at the moment for city council. Neither is more important than the other and I’m glad someone of Gee’s caliber -- she actually has twice the journalism experience I have despite our being about the same age -- is covering one of the most important meetings in the county, along with the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees.

The greater effort to cover county council comes from the complex economic development issues in play these days, along with a myriad of other topics that grow out of its meetings.

Gee is an editor in her own right, at our sister paper in Bishopville, the Lee County Observer. It just comes down to a matter of time management. She has a paper to put out in another city; I’m right here in Camden and have more time to spend on any follow-up stories, columns or editorials that might grow out of that coverage.

As we mentioned when we introduced Gee to our readers here in Kershaw County, she would only be covering meetings while I would handle any follow-up work. After a few meetings, we realized that it would simply be easier for me to attend county council meetings, allowing me to pick up on the nuances so that I can ask follow-up questions when necessary, conduct research where appropriate and report on issues going beyond the council chamber.

This isn’t the first time I’ve covered county council. For about a year and a half ending in mid-2016, I covered county council. I also covered their meetings on occasion as we went through staffing changes throughout my time here at the C-I.

Gee, on the other hand, has more than enough experience covering all kinds of government meetings, including city councils. I have complete faith in her abilities -- it’s not even a question.

All this switcheroo does is ensure we focus her attention on what she needs to do, especially her work at the Observer, without skimping on the journalism you need to be informed.

On that note, there’s something else I wanted you to know about. During the past four to five years, it became harder and harder for the C-I to create crime reports based on information from the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO).

Without getting into specific details -- primarily because it’s not all in place yet -- I’m happy to report that Sheriff Lee Boan and his command staff are working with me on being able to report more fully on the incidents deputies and investigators deal with on a much more regular basis.

Boan and his staff agree with me regarding transparency -- they understand that the public has a right to know what the sheriff’s office is doing, what kind of crimes are affecting different areas of the county, and whether or not deputies are responding to them appropriately.

Of the three agencies I usually report on -- the sheriff’s office and Camden and Elgin police departments -- the KCSO is the largest. Its jurisdiction literally covers the entirety of Kershaw County’s 740 square miles and its and more than 65,000 citizens.

That’s a lot of cases and, as you might expect, KCSO incidents took up the majority of our crime reports in the past.

For reasons I’ve not completely understood, that dwindled to almost nothing during the past several years. I’m very grateful to Boan and, especially, Chief Deputy Steve Knafelc, not only for facilitating the pending changes, but for trusting me to tell the department’s story as a journalist. In other words, they understand that I’ll be critical where I need to be while reporting fairly on their activities.

Boan ran his campaign with a promise of transparency, and he’s delivering.

In conjunction with this, you also may have noticed during the last couple of months that I’m splitting up the crime reports. I now run separate reports on the two police departments and will begin running a separate one from the KCSO as soon as those preparations are finalized.

It’s all a part of telling the real news of Kershaw County. That, unfortunately, includes crime, but, really, it’s about what our men and women in uniform are doing to protect and serve in all of our communities.