I’m about to go freeload at Steve Benjamin’s thing

Folks, I’m about to go over to this Steve Benjamin thing at 701 Whaley. But as usual, my attendance will not be an expression of personal political preference. I’m just going to check it out.

And of course, in keeping with my principles, I’m not planning to pay. I plan to go, walk around with a beer or something and try to blend, and learn what I can. As Capt. Mal said to River Tam in “Serenity,” “It’s what I do, darlin’. It’s what I do. I am an inveterate free-loader. It’s my M.O., and if I ever were to pay for anything, it would ruin my reputation in more ways than one. (Some would say I shouldn’t accept free beer. I believe my high school buddy Burl has said he wouldn’t, and maybe I should listen, because he is a journalist who still has a jobby-job. But Burl doesn’t understand the whole Southern thing. It’s not polite to refuse a drink from one’s host. And I’m very polite.)

Or at least, I plan to do those things until they throw me out. Anyway, maybe I’ll see you there. It starts at 5:30. Here’s the info. The most interesting thing on that link, by the way, is the list of the host committee, which is as follows:

Governor Jim Hodges
Emile DeFelice
Jenni & Cameron Runyan
Tiffany and Anton Gunn
DJ Carson
Bubba Cromer
Robbie Butt
Beth Binkley
Trav Robertson
Courtney Gibbes
Rhodes Bailey
Laurin Manning
Brad Weeks and Chris Terlinden
Hal Peters
Dana Bruce
Shani and Aaron Gilchrist
Debbie McDaniel
Mark Sweatman
Ashley Newton
Bosie Martin
Will Bryant
Amy and Rick Quinn
Jen and John Adams
Brian Murrell
Ashley Medbery and Adam Floyd
John Nichols
Kevin S. Baltimore
Marti Bluestein
Jocelyn & Derwin Brannon
Brandon Anderson
Tony Mizzell
Shennice and LeBrian Cleckley

Now — does anybody know of any Kirkman Finley III events I can crash? I want to be perfectly fair and balanced about this.

And when a third viable candidate emerges (it is my considered opinion that there will have to be third major vote-getter for Finlay to have a chance against Benjamin, so I’m sort of waiting for another shoe to drop here), I will be thrilled to crash any party they have as well.

34 thoughts on “I’m about to go freeload at Steve Benjamin’s thing

  1. Brad Warthen

    FYI, Steve just put out this release:

    Brad —

    Yesterday a well-funded member of the Columbia City Council announced that he’s joining the race to be the next mayor of Columbia. I’ve never been one to shy from competition, so I look forward to a spirited debate on the issues facing our city.

    But make no mistake — this is shaping up to be a tough race. We’re going to have to put in long hours, knock on lots of doors, and raise the funds to build our organization. Will you make a donation today?

    Members of the media love to use fundraising numbers as a measure of the viability of a campaign. I believe the people who are a part of a campaign are the truest measure of its strength — not the campaign’s bank account — but that’s not going to change how it’s reported in the press. With a well-funded new opponent in the race and with the financial reporting quarter ending in less than a week, it is crucial that we show the strength of our organization.

    With your generous donation, we will be able to meet our goal for the quarter and acquire the fundamental resources we need to run a successful campaign.

    Can I count on you to contribute to our campaign today?

    I deeply appreciate your support. This race isn’t going to be easy, nor should it be. I look forward to working with you over the coming months as we shape the future of South Carolina’s capital city.

    Thank you,


  2. Lee Muller

    Say hello to Warren Bolton for us.

    He sure dropped his crusade against loan sharks as soon as Steve “Advance America” Benjamin filed for the mayor’s election.

  3. BillC

    Nobody, I repeat, nobody likes a freeloader. I have to ask why you feel you’re welcome at every political function in this city. I mean, you’re not there to represent The State newspaper, you’re there no different than any other person off the street. Is this function open to anyone who wants to walk in off the street?

  4. BillC

    Let’s see what is Brad going to do for Steve Benjamin (and every other candidate’s pre-election function he crashes). Brad will not endorse the candidate (like it would matter); Brad will not contribute to the candidate’s campaign fund; Brad will not volunteer to help in the candidate’s campaign; and Brad will not even put a candidate’s campaign sign in his front yard. So, help me out… exactly why did you go again? I mean other than to freeload a meal. Have you ever been to a function and see someone and asked, “Why is he here?”… “he” in this situation is Brad.

    “I’m just going to check it out”… in other words, Brad is now the nosy old lady in the neighborhood.

    I hope the free food and booze you mooched was worth the visit.

  5. Brad Warthen

    Yep, it was. The food and the beer, but more than that the conversations with Steve Benjamin, Rick Quinn, Boyd Summers, David Campbell, Cameron Runyan, Anton Gunn and of course our own Kathryn Fenner. Actually, I only said hi to Steve and Boyd, but had pretty good chats with the rest. You learn a lot.

    For instance, I learned that Rick is 95 percent sure he’s going to run for the House seat being vacated by Ted Pitts — which is the same legislative seat I would run for if I ran for the Legislature. As I told Rick, I doubt that I will — unless I can find a job that would allow me to do so, and such jobs are rare.

    Anyway, you learn a lot at these things. Some of it I write about, but most of it simply goes into the storehouse of knowledge about politics that gives me a context for offering the opinions that I DO write. I mean, it seems pretty obvious that’s why I’d go; I have trouble seeing why it’s a mystery.

    Speaking of what bloggers do, I also had the chance to exchange pleasantries with Wes Wolfe and Adam Fogle. Adam Beam of The State was there, too.

  6. Brad Warthen

    Oh, and I saw Emile DeFelice, and Laurin Manning, and spoke for a few minutes with Tony Mizzell — first time I’d seen him since he left county council, I think. I kidded Tony about being all mobbed up — he had on a pinstriped suit that looked like his last name should be “Soprano.”

    Anyway, I got to touch base with a lot of sources.

  7. Lee Muller

    Duped by Obama and white guilt, but eager to vote for another unqualified candidate, based on their skin color.

    How many kicks of the mule does it take for Brad?

  8. Randy E

    When’s Bolton going to take Benjamin to task for his Advance America predatory loans involvement?

    KP, Brad’s more like Joe Namath in a movie in which he walks through the grocery store pulling all the items for a sandwich. Namath opens each item then makes and eats the sandwich while walking through the store. He then walks out the store leaving the open items and not paying.

    I think it’s great that Brad’s still in the mix.

    Lourie wasn’t at this affair?

  9. Randy E

    Speaking of campaigns, Brad where’s the thread about the SC right wing nuts hunting RINOs including Bob Inglis?

    This is the sickest political story; Bob Inglis is not conservative enough because he voted to slap Joe Wilson on the hand?! They are eating their own.

  10. Burl Burlingame

    Whew. As of about ten minutes ago, I’m back in Hawaii.
    The Asian tradition of omiyagi, plus Polynesian standards of hospitality, plus plain ol’ good manners and common sense mitigate against “mixing” for print journalists. But our code of ethics is pretty strict. We’ve had reporters suspended for accepting a beer at political rallies. And management frowns on staffers being members of any organizations, even such as the PTA and the Boy Scouts.
    On the other hand, you have to balance the fact that journalists are citizens of the community too.

  11. Lee Muller

    Not problem with a journalist being a registered Democrat, but being a member of the PTA or Boy Scouts is “unethical”.

    No problem refusing to investigate suspicious behavior by a candidate on whose jet you are riding, but drinking a free beer at campaign fundraiser is “unethical”.

    It’s obvious these phony ethics are window dressing and a smokescreen for much more serious unethical behavior which has corporate journalism untrustworthy.

  12. doug_ross


    Please let us know about how the journalism ethics work in the current business client if you happen to get a lead on a story involving one of your paper’s largest advertisers.

    I don’t recall a whole lot of newspapers doing exposes on the shady dealings of car dealers or realtors.

  13. Burl Burlingame

    I am not a “registered” member of ANY political party. That would be wrong.
    I do vote, however. And have voted for candidates of both major parties. Who I vote for is none of your freakin’ business.

  14. Burl Burlingame

    And Doug, yes, I have done stories that have resulted in the loss of major advertising, as the public interest and consumer rights were served. The publisher wasn’t thrilled, but the stories were given good play by the editors without any interference from above.
    In the current business “climate” there are fewer of these stories because we have fewer reporters, which means we’re kept busy covering the basic stuff.

  15. Brad Warthen

    Just as I have cost The State many thousands because of editorial positions of ours. I can’t go into those, because the information is proprietary. I knew these things because in addition to being an editor, I was an officer of the company. But what that means is that I was in meetings in which business-side people would make reference to the lost advertising from advertiser X, and some senior staff newcomer would say, “Why did they stop doing business with us?” and someone would tersely explain it was because of our editorial position, and then there’d be this awkward silence while people stared at the table top to keep from looking at ME, and I would wait and we’d move on to the next topic.

    See, what an advertiser doesn’t get is that they think they’re exerting this pressure on the paper as an editorial entity by hurting the business side, but all they’ve done is set up a conflict that the people at the newspaper can’t even talk about because of the taboos involved. The mechanism for the advertiser getting his way simply doesn’t exist. It’s hard to explain that to someone who hasn’t worked at the top levels of a newspaper, and even when you do explain it, people don’t believe it.

    The closest I came to discussing such matters over the years was in giving the publisher a “heads-up.” Reid Ashe taught me one rule back in the 70s and early 80s about dealing with publishers: Don’t blindside them. If you know you’re about to run something that could cause ANY kind of backlash that could land in the publisher’s lap, from a controversial endorsement to a cartoon with sexual innuendo to something that will royally tick off an advertiser, you tell the publisher it’s coming. This is to avoid the publisher being in the extremely embarrassing position of going to a community breakfast or something and catching hell about something he didn’t even know about.
    The conversation would go like this: You need to know about something. We’re running such and such in the paper (if practical, I’d exhibit a proof). You will be likely to hear such and such from group Z. Here’s why we’re saying this or running this or whatever.
    This would generally be greeted by a curt nod, sometimes by a pained expression, and almost always by a “thank you.”
    Now this may make the publisher seem like a passive creature. Not at all. Publishers are members of the editorial boards, and participate in major decisions (say, on presidential or gubernatorial nominations), and what the publisher thinks has a great deal of weight.
    But most of the things that blow up in a publisher’s face are decisions that he or she had nothing to do with. And of course, in the case of the newsroom the publisher doesn’t even have the forum of being on the editorial board.
    It’s hard to explain what it’s like being an editor and working under a business-side person (as are most publishers). For the most part, I was very fortunate in that the publishers trusted my judgment, even when it got them into hot water. Back to Reid Ashe — he used to say to me, “You have the power to do anything, as long as you do the right thing,” which was both empowering and scary. Fortunately, in the years I worked for him, he never told me I’d done the wrong thing, even though he didn’t always like what I did.

    Again, the whole thing is hard to explain to people who haven’t lived it.

  16. doug_ross


    Is the information you claim to be “proprietary” due to legal reasons even though you are no longer employed by The State?

    Or are you making personal decision to not reveal it because you don’t want to jeopardize any possible future employment? (which makes sense)

    I’m trying to understand what you “owe” The State in terms of loyalty at this point.

  17. Greg Flowers

    This will be the first time in a LOOONG time that two serious capable candidates have contested the office of Mayor in this burg. I fully expect Benjamin to emerge the victor as he will capture a significant portion of the white and the vast majority of the white vote. However I believe that Finlay (who will have my enthusiastic vote will generate a level of conversation not generally scene in local elections. However you feel about them being nonpartisan (who does not know who is the Republican and who is the Democrat here) holding them in April does little but dampen public interest. I am hoping that whoever wins will be able to instill a sense of fiscal responsibility and realistic goals. I also hope that the presence of Steve Benjamin will provide blacks with an alternative to the stranglehold Cromartie has geld over their vote for a very long time.

    While Utopia is not on the horizon, a better day is ahead.

  18. Burl Burlingame

    The “business” of the press is to inform the public, not massage public-relations for local businesses. No business will be “investigated” unless there’s something that needs to be told. One of the things that people outside the newspaper world have trouble grasping are the huge number of potential stories that are investigated but are found to be not worth reporting. This is labor that doesn’t lead to a product, but it’s necessary.

  19. Brad Warthen

    Or, the huge number of potential stories that aren’t investigated at all because you can only get to a few of them. This is particularly a problem with newspaper staffs being shrunk away almost to nothing.

    Or the even larger number of stories that no one at the newspaper even hears about. Usually, when people in a community start saying paranoid things about how the newspaper was sitting on a story or failed to investigate a story, it’s something from this huge group.

    No matter how smart or how professional the people at your local newspaper may be, most of human experience is no more evident to them than it is to you, and sometimes less so.

    Burl describes a phenomenon that has always worried me — news people not belonging to the PTA or whatever. You’ve got to be part of your community to know what’s going on in it. Trouble is, even if you want to (and I always wanted to), it’s pretty tough to do if you work at a morning newspaper, because of the hours you work.

    When I was at an afternoon paper, I had a relatively normal life (except that I went in earlier than most people). I could attend evening meetings. I could even coach T-Ball. But for me, most of that went away when I left that afternoon paper in 1985. And of course, since then, most afternoon papers have gone away, too. So news people have gotten a little more distant from the ordinary lives of their communities.

  20. Lee Muller

    Like Barack Obama’s unseen birth certificate.

    Or Steve Benjamin’s ties to loan sharks. Warren Bolton is just too busy to get to that.

  21. Brad Warthen

    Doug, as you know, I am unusually frank with information that bears in any way upon the news or my opinions. You knew more about the editorial board and why it said the things it said when I was EPE than you will have learned about any other newspaper anywhere, largely because of my blog — the old one, and this one. Probably more than you wanted to know, really.

    But I always considered the business side stuff to be, well, not my business. Obviously, it affected me — it’s why I don’t have a job any more. But the very wall that protected me in expressing my opinion even if that cost the paper a big advertising account also cut the other way. In other words, they didn’t mess with me, so I didn’t mess with them. And I’m not going to tell tales out of school now, especially if they might affect the newspaper financially. There are a lot of good people still working there under very trying conditions. Newspapers are vulnerable and delicate enough. I’m not going to make it tougher for them.

    For the most part, you won’t even see me second-guessing the news and editorial judgments of my former co-workers, and that’s an area in which I am an expert. I mean, think about it: How would you take that? It would be natural for you to place me in the category of “disgruntled former employee,” and let’s face it, that’s not a very likable character.

    I could rant and rail about how the people who run newspapers have run them into the ground, but you know what? They’ve all been struggling, so it’s not like some newspaper executives made good decisions while others made bad ones.

    I’ve tried to speak ex cathedra on the subject of newspapers as a business. If you’ll recall, I was pretty frank with my opinions on the subject back around the time that Knight Ridder was being bought by McClatchy. See here and here and here.

    But while I did say some pretty pithy stuff then, I’m a bit embarrassed to look back, because I was saying then that newspapers were a better investment than Wall Street believed. And yet subsequent events have shown the true weaknesses in the industry had yet to be manifested.

    You want to know how off I was? I bought McClatchy at $39, because I thought it was undervalued. When it got down to 39 cents, I stopped keeping track.

    So you really don’t want my opinions on the business side…

  22. Burl Burlingame

    Brad touches on something that’s endemic. People believe that, because we are at a newspaper, we have access to all information about anything, and if it’s not reported, then there is a “cover-up.”
    Here’s what’s really going on: The only things we know are what we’re told, and what we dig up. One of my favorite definitions of “news” is — it’s what a reporter didn’t know yesterday.
    OT, perhaps, but this is an interesting piece. Brad, pay attention, it concerns your new world:

  23. Lee Muller

    Actually, we know you professionals don’t have much access to information. That’s obvious when you read the stale, bogus, and incorrect news put out by state-controlled media, and then read other, documented facts on the Internet.

    No one with any brains wants to spend money to read fabrications from the Democratic Party news organs.

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