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FEBRUARY 2017 / VOL. 28, NO.1


It's Not Academic

Meet & Three

In Medias Res

Faculty bloggers share their scholarship with the public online, page 4

What is fake news? Where did it come from? Why does it matter? Pull up a chair, page 8

At Student Media, students learn the job on the job, page 12


FROM THE EDITOR USC Times is published 10 times a year for the faculty and staff of the University of South Carolina by the Office of Communications & Public Affairs, Wes Hickman, director. Managing Editor Craig Brandhorst Creative Director Bob Wertz Designer Brinnan Wimberly Contributors Dan Cook Chris Horn Page Ivey Melinda Waldrop Photographers Adrienne Cooper Ambyr Goff Kim Truett Printer USC Printing Services Campus correspondents James Raby, Aiken Kerry Jarvis, Beaufort Cortney Easterling, Greenville Shana Dry, Lancaster Jane Brewer, Salkehatchie Misty Hatfield, Sumter Annie Smith, Union Tammy Whaley, Upstate Jay Darby, Palmetto College Submissions Did you know you can submit ideas for future issues of USC Times? Share your story by emailing or calling Craig Brandhorst at, 803-777-3681.


FAKE NEWS Fake it ’til you make it. That may or may not be good professional advice — if you’re comfortable doing a job for which you are completely unqualified, it’s a recipe for qualified success — but it’s terrible advice if we’re talking about news. You don’t need any more fabricated news than you’ve already had, and we certainly don’t want to make news by (re)circulating it. The stakes are just too high. No matter what anyone tells you, the media matter. The media matters, too. And we’re not just saying so because we’re part of it, though full disclosure: we’re part of it. But so is the university itself, if you stop to think about it — or even if you don’t. Facts, after all, are facts. And the media is more than just daily newspapers, cable television and whatever you find on Facebook. Don’t believe it? Let’s consult an authority, Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, which defines “media” as the plural of “medium,” and “medium,” among other definitions, as “a channel or system of communication, information, or entertainment.” Even setting aside the Office of Communications and Public Affairs (full disclosure: that’s us again), this campus is one ginormous channel of all the above. It’s what we do. Further evidence: Exhibit A: Student Media. Carolina students have been learning the ins and outs of broadcast, print and web journalism at The Daily Gamecock, Garnet & Black, WUSC and SGTV for years. Just ask Sarah Scarborough, director of Student Media, or the students involved with the above media outlets. We did — and got a great story out of it ("In Medias Res," page 12). Exhibit B: Meet & Three. Get a couple of faculty members and an influential alumnus together for lunch, bring a photographer, click RECORD and ask them to talk about the ongoing fake news crisis, then disseminate that conversation for the rest of the Carolina community. We did that, too ("Fake News Is Real," page 8). Exhibit C: The Pulitzer Prize. Or should we say Pulitzer Prizes, plural? That’s right, two of our successful alumni — former English major Michael LaForgia and J-school grad Chris Davis — have been racking up the awards for investigative reporting in recent years, and they shared their stories with Carolinian magazine for the spring issue. We’ve got a sneak preview ("A PrizeWinning Lark," page 16). And finally, Exhibit D: Anyone on campus who disseminates their scholarship or research online via personal or professional blogs. We didn’t have room to profile every blogger on campus, but we found enough to make the point (page 4). Our faculty and staff possess profound knowledge and don’t mind sharing it with the rest of the world. That’s part of what the media does, too. So next time you hear somebody complain about the media, take a moment to reflect. The media isn’t inherently good, bad or anything else. It is simply a channel for communication, one we use to great effect on the university campus. Indeed, without it we wouldn’t even be here.

The University of South Carolina does not discriminate in educational or employment opportunities or decisions for qualified persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, genetics, sexual orientation or veteran status.

ON THE COVER - Office of Communications and Public Affairs photography intern Ambyr Goff, photographed by Office of Communications and Public Affairs photography intern Adrienne Cooper.

Tune In,


VOL. 28, NO.1  3



AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION Don’t be fooled by periodic bouts of spring-like temperatures — it’s still flu season, and a pretty severe one. Student Health Services is seeing an increased number of confirmed flu cases at the health center this year and is asking everyone to follow some important flu prevention practices. In addition to getting the flu vaccine (free for students at Thomson Student Health Center), all members of the university community are urged to wash hands

The State Optional Retirement Program (State ORP) open enrollment period is in progress and will run through March 1. During this period, State ORP participants may change or, if eligible, may choose to irrevocably switch to the South Carolina Retirement System (SCRS). Changes will be effective April 1, 2017. State ORP participants are eligible to change to the state retirement system if they enrolled in the ORP between Jan. 1, 2012, and March 1, 2016. You cannot change from the ORP if you have been enrolled in it for more than 60 months. Current ORP participants should receive an email with details concerning this enrollment period and an outline of options. If you do not receive this communication, contact the Benefits Office at 803-777-6650.

frequently with warm, soapy water; clean and disinfect surfaces or objects often; use hand wipes and sanitizers; avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth; stay home if you are sick, and stay away from people who are sick. For additional flu prevention tips, visit

NOT COVERED A NUMBER OF BREAKTHROUGHS The Office of the Vice President for Research has announced the 2017 Breakthrough award winners. The Breakthrough Leadership in Research award recognizes USC’s distinguished senior faculty, the Breakthrough Star award honors outstanding early-career faculty and the Breakthrough Graduate Scholar award goes to exceptional graduate students. For a complete list of this year’s winners, visit

COVERED Each year, employers are required to report health insurance coverage status for eligible employees under the Affordable Care Act. USC’s Division of Human Resources will send out form 1095-C indicating health care coverage status for all eligible employees by March 2, 2017. Although the 1095-C form will provide a record of your health coverage, the form does not need to be attached to your tax return. Simply check the box on your return indicating your health coverage status. The Internal Revenue Service will receive a record of your health care coverage status from the university. Questions regarding your health care coverage status? Contact the Benefits Office at 803-777-6650.

Approximately 80 pharmacy products are no longer covered by the State Health Plan due to the South Carolina Public Employee Benefit Authority's transition to Express Scripts National Preferred Formulary. Express Scripts serves as the State Health Plan’s pharmacy benefits manager. PEBA mailed informational letters to members affected by the change, which took effect Jan. 1. Express Scripts also sent personalized, detailed information to those members this fall. This change affects only active employees, non-Medicare retirees and Medicare retirees who opted out of the State Health Plan Medicare Prescription Drug Program. If you have questions about your prescription drug plan, call Express Scripts at 855-612-3128.




ASSISTANT PROFESSOR SCHOOL OF THE EARTH, OCEAN & ENVIRONMENT The subject matter of Lori Ziolkowski’s blog is unlikely to be duplicated anywhere on the internet. The assistant professor of biogeomestry and biochemistry’s new online forum is designed to keep readers updated about her search for life on the edge of Antarctica. Ziolkowski’s foray into the blogosphere is backed by a fellowship from the International Polar Foundation, which asked her to blog about the month she’s spending collecting rock and ice samples that will be analyzed for microbial life. Blogging will also present a chance to answer frequently asked questions about her trip, from scientific specifics to the ins and outs of daily life at the bottom of the earth. “As I told my family and non-science friends about the trip, it was clear that this trip sparked a lot of interest for the general public,” Ziolkowski said via email from Cape Town, South Africa – the final

leg of her journey to Antarctica – in early January. “Some people are curious about the logistics, while others are more interested in the science.” Before embarking on her trip, the Canadian native didn’t expect temperatures much more severe than a typical Toronto winter, as it is currently summer in Antarctica. The foundation provides participants with insulated outerwear, so she concentrated on packing long wool underwear, hats and hiking boots. Those details are as much a part of her blog as the research. To help kick things off, she shared pictures of her luggage. She also detailed the extensive medical evaluation necessary to travel to Antarctica, including “an amazing number of blood tests,” an ophthalmology report and a stress test. Since her arrival in Antarctica, Ziolkowski’s communication is limited to a satellite phone, but she hopes to describe the midnight sun and what’s it like to trek across the ice from the research station to the work site, an hour and a half away. “Sometimes when we conduct research, we are isolated from the general public,” she says. “I wanted a way to bridge that gap and make the science more accessible.” The challenge? Deciding what level of technical detail to include in a general audience blog about complicated scientific research. “I would love to write in a lot more detail about my science, but I know that I will lose a lot of readers that way,” Ziolkowski says. “When writing the posts, I have been trying to keep my parents in mind. If my parents understand, then I have done a good job.”

For more, visit Ziolkowski’s blog:

VOL. 28, NO.1  5


ASSISTANT PROFESSOR SCHOOL OF LAW Academics know the drill: publish or perish. To advance their careers, researchers need to write articles for prestigious academic journals. Bryant Walker Smith, assistant professor in the School of Law, hasn’t had trouble being published. His work on drones, automated driving, robotics and the intersection of law and technology more generally puts him at the forefront of his field. Still, he says, the publication process can be cumbersome — and at odds with the pace at which society is changing. “There is a way to get tenure, and that involves, in the law school, a very specific type of publication — the law review,” he says. “There is a certain length that you write, and it might come out in print a year or two later. That is good in a lot of ways for scholar development, and it is inadequate in a lot of others.”

One inadequacy is timeliness. “I tend to approach this job saying, ‘What can I do that is most interesting and important?’ And to the extent that importance involves near-term impact, there need to be other ways of communicating,” he says. On his blog Law of the Newly Possible, Smith recently delved into a high-profile disagreement between Uber and the California Department of Motor Vehicles, when Uber took the position that it didn’t need to comply with the state’s testing requirements. Smith — a widely cited expert on automated driving — weighed in quickly and forcefully. The company’s position, he wrote, was “textually plausible but contextually untenable,” essentially exploiting a “linguistic loophole” to get around the law. While Smith has some concerns with the law itself, he wrote that if the company wanted to test its driverless cars in the state then it must follow the law. Shortly after Smith expressed his view, California revoked vehicle registrations for Uber’s selfdriving cars in San Francisco. With his blog, Smith has applied the same approach to numerous situations in multiple states, aiming to be part of the conversation as it is happening, rather than just commenting after the fact. “Academic articles are great for long-term impact,” he says. “Short-term, having a blog where you are able to communicate short, substantiated points to a wider audience is useful. I find a lot of what I do pushes back against popular misconceptions and tries to bring in academic thought from a variety of circles in concrete ways. So, that is principally how I use it — when I need to say something quick, soon, I will put it on there. And it still allows me to speak in my own voice.”

To explore Smith’s blog, visit



ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY For Allison Marsh, blogging has evolved from a tool to help further her own education into a vehicle to help others expand theirs. Marsh, an associate history professor and director of the department’s public history program, initially found blogging a useful way to sort through dissertation ideas and develop writing discipline. “Over time, especially as I became a professional museum curator, I started thinking about how the general public gets information,” says Marsh, who has curated exhibits for McKissick Museum and the Smithsonian Institution. “What are trusted sources? How can you effectively communicate your research to a broad audience? Then I started having more focused ideas of writing style and writing tone and how to find a good story, a story worth telling.”

Marsh’s blogging now mostly takes the form of contributions to other websites, such as the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. For instance, she detailed Columbia’s convoluted canal history for an October 2015 article in the wake of that month’s historic S.C. flooding. “The Smithsonian is a scholarly institution and they understand the process of peer review,” she says. “They have a fairly elaborate editorial process where blogs do get formal reviews. There’s feedback and there’s revision. As a writer and as a scholar, I have found that level of feedback to be an incredibly useful part of both the research and writing.” Marsh also uses blogs — hers and those of other academicians ­— as resources for her students. “I have used more blogs in introductory classes than I ever thought I would have,” she says. “It’s something that students are very comfortable reading, and it generally evokes more discussion than some of our other source material.” A challenge Marsh has faced during her lengthy blogging career is varying reactions from colleagues. “There are people who enthusiastically embrace it, and there are people who push back tremendously about it,” she says. “Recognizing it as a form of scholarship is a work in progress.” Marsh also strives to make sure that her blogs, including one she’s currently working on about Smithsonian collecting practices, are both relevant and enduring. “You want them to be timely, but you also want them to be timeless, so that they don’t seem stale and they still contain information that is useful to the reader,” she says. “Historians want contemporary audiences to know about the past and how the past shapes things, and we want to be responsive to current events. But we also want our work to have staying power.”

Read an example of Marsh’s blogging: blog/columbia-south-carolinas-troubled-canal

VOL. 28, NO.1  7


ASSOCIATE DEAN OF FACULTY DEVELOPMENT AND PROFESSOR SCHOOL OF LAW Law professor Colin Miller began blogging in 2007 as a way to communicate with more people. “As academics, we can sometimes get caught in the trap where we’re writing for each other,” he says. “I think it’s a good way of being able to communicate with students and write for a general audience.” Miller updates his blog frequently, posting on topics that catch his eye, relate to something he is teaching or strike him as potential subjects for academic papers. The instant feedback he receives from commentators allows him to gauge both the interest level in issues and the response to his take on them. “What I try to do is give my own perspective on whether this new evidence law makes sense or whether the judge’s ruling was correct,” Miller says. “I think that the whole point of blogging is to be able to, in a concise way, add something beyond the news.”

Miller tries to post daily, estimating each post takes him between 30 and 45 minutes. Recent entries focus on judges’ charges to juries in Kansas, Iowa and Indiana – examining, for example, if the wording of instructions to continue deliberations could be considered prejudicial. He also probes compelling portions of individual cases and analyzes judges’ opinions. “It allows me to have the first voice in a lot of things,” he says. “The way that traditional legal scholarship works is, you notice a trend or a case, you take six months to a year to write that article and submit it to law reviews. They take another six months to a year to edit that, and so really, it’s a year to two out from the idea that you actually have this published. With the blog, I can see a Supreme Court case on evidentiary ruling tomorrow, and I can tap out a blog post that same day.” Miller also hosts a podcast, Undisclosed, that examines wrongful convictions. A Virginia Beach, Va., native and William & Mary law school graduate, Miller has been at USC since 2012. He says the blog can also help introduce people from other parts of the country to the university’s law school, and he also uses it as inspiration for the occasional exam question. “Traditionally, most scholarship isn’t that accessible,” he says. “Writing the blog allows me to focus on writing in a way that’s more accessible.” T

For more, visit Miller’s blog: evidenceprof/




DAVID LANKES Director, School of Library and Information Science; associate dean, College of Information and Communications

Fake news. You’ve heard about it, consumed it, probably even believed it — at least on occasion. And if, like 92 percent of American adults, you’re on Facebook or Twitter, you’ve quite possibly helped pass it along.* But what is it? Why does it exist? How do we combat it and why can’t it just go away? USC Times invited two faculty members and an alumnus who serves as the attorney for the South Carolina Press Association to weigh in one of this most vexing of 21st century media problems — the rampant spread of fake news, clickbait profiteering and outright propaganda — and meanwhile treated them to lunch. BY PAGE IVEY

TAYLOR SMITH Attorney for the South Carolina Press Association, ’08 journalism, ’13 law

ERNEST WIGGINS Associate professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communications

So let’s start at the beginning. What is “fake news”?

Ernest: I think it’s interesting that when you introduce the topic, you put air quotes around fake news. I think that’s because people are questioning the use of the term, because maybe they want to be ironic or because — and this is my perspective — the term “fake news” doesn’t get to what we’re talking about. I mean, “fake news” has always been around. When you got to the grocery checkout line, whether it was the bat boy or space abduction, there was the fake news. But, it was clearly identifiable because of its placement, because of the

content. It was clear that it wasn’t to be taken seriously. Taylor: It was a lot easier for those in the media to characterize this when they were gatekeepers. They’re still gatekeepers, but they’re not the traditional gatekeepers we had in the information society 20 or 30 years ago. Now what we have is a plethora of information on the information superhighway known as the internet. But now there’s less regard for the credibility of those individual information providers, because what they’re getting profit from — at least in this digital age — is clicks. If you make it to the website, that’s how they’re

* Unverified claim, i.e. fake news. According to a 2016 Pew Research report released in November, 79 percent of

internet users (68 percent of all U.S. adults) use Facebook; 24 percent of internet users (21 percent of all U.S. adults) use Twitter. For more fact-based information, visit

VOL. 28, NO.1  9

getting profitability. It doesn’t matter that the information within it is false as long as you arrive. So is this new profit model at the root of the problem?

David: Well, no. I mean, whether you’re getting clicks or you’re getting money from subscriptions, the profit model is not different. The ethic behind the profit model may be slightly different. You can either characterize fake news by intent or you can characterize it by form. Intent is purposeful misinformation. The form, I think, is what people are responding to. Fake news conforms and adopts traditional markers of press or media, and so it uses things that look like, feel like, are reported like what we’re used to seeing the press use, but they’re being used without regard for the veracity of the information. Taylor: That’s a good point. It’s not necessarily always profit. The motives can be myriad. Ernest: The outcomes are pretty selfserving whether it’s going to be money or changing someone’s vote. To the point of intent, and to the point of outcomes or consequences — and this is where we’re

just pulling our hair out here — it could be that fake news is actually propaganda or fake news is actually something even more malevolent, like something that tries to destroy the republic. And as consumers of information, we’re all complicit, right?

David: There’s a great phrase that comes out of economics called “satisficing.” It’s the notion of how people satisfy their needs. What we know from people’s behavior is they will make a decision where they can minimize costs, which includes either money or their time or their effort, to maximize results. It’s human nature. We treat that like it’s laziness, but we all do it on a regular basis. My point about

fake news is, the mechanisms we use to maximize our investment are changing. It used to be, “if I buy this newspaper, it is the easiest, least expensive investment to become informed.” What we’re seeing now is all of those wonderful tags we used to use — the indicators of “this is quality” or “this is a quick way to get good stuff" — those are disappearing. So it’s easy to get a tweet, to take the top result in a Google search, take what’s in my Facebook feed. I don’t have to put in a lot of effort. I get a lot of personal satisfaction from it. It agrees with my worldview. One of the things that drives me nuts in this whole discussion about fake news — particularly around the election — is that somehow people were either lazy or uneducated about how

“A good answer to ‘fake news’ is not to make society less trusting and more skeptical. That doesn’t build common good, common understanding. I know what I don’t want to do is to teach my kids to think that everyone is out to get them.”


always going to go towards those things that reinforce their viewpoint, and they are more likely to disregard those things that don’t. The Associated Press and other trusted news outlets are teaming up with Facebook to vet stories that have gone viral. Doesn’t all of that require the general public to appreciate that some sources are better than others?

information is transmitted. If you really look at it, this was probably the most informed decision people had made. They were just using information they already agreed with. The failure wasn’t in getting information. The failure was not getting outside of what they expected to see. How do we combat the human tendency to not believe things that fall outside our expectations?

David: You can’t take someone who just totally disagrees with what you’re about to tell them and start by saying, “You’re wrong.” We know that in communication theory. You don’t start educating people by telling them that they’re stupid. You don’t start telling people that there’s a better way “You have The Onion, you have Andy Borowitz doing his thing (in the New Yorker), and it’s the sharing of an excerpt from an Onion story or from the Borowitz column where the real mischief can happen. Because if it’s not cited as being an Onion piece, and it makes it halfway across the internet universe as fact, then there is a lot of potential damage that has been done to public discourse or to policy.”

to do it, by telling them the way they’re doing it is wrong. You start with where they are, and you begin to bridge to where they want to go. Ernest: It seems to me this is a question of trust. What do I mean by “I trust this source”? Is it that I trust that it is “unbiased,” that it’s going to be “fair and balanced,” that it’s someone who isn’t trying to manipulate me? Is the trust level down here with certain sources and fairly high with certain other sources? Does it flex? I think it does. Taylor: What we’re not going to do, using a psychology term — we’re never going to get around confirmation bias. People are

David: Instead of saying “this is right and this is wrong,” the school librarian was there to teach information literacy, to teach, “There are good sites and bad sites.” And there was a real push to give the gold star. “The New York Times gets the gold star. The Wall Street Journal gets it. The National Enquirer doesn’t.” If you could begin to identify the network of trust, you could say, “This claim has gone through this network, therefore I trust it.” Taylor: If I were right now, I would be a little concerned about this partnership. In the sense that when they go about their fact-checking, usually, it’s a very narrow inquiry. If Facebook is going to start putting tags on something that’s “false,” it’s highly unlikely that every

VOL. 28, NO.1  11

“One thing that defines journalism and the practice of journalism is the ethical framework that you abide by. How do we, in this information economy, get people in tune with, or even adopting, an ethical framework with regards to sharing information?”

comma and period is somehow false within this story. I don’t know if this is going to be the panacea that people think it is in regards to social media. It’s going to create a paranoia. People are going to see that it may have only been a claim or two or three within the article that was false. To label the whole thing as false takes out some of the truthful information that may have been beneficial. Ernest: Well, it’s going to have to be incremental, right? I mean, you have to start somewhere and then kind of build. If there’s any kind of learning going on here, and if the person that wrote the piece is educable, if the piece is labeled as being false in these particular places, then that person perhaps will process this tagging and do better as a practitioner of journalism. In addition to the consumer being alerted to the problems with the article, maybe, incrementally, over time, the journalist or the person who is creating these stories will get better. If they truly do want to be good journalists — and, of course, that’s a big if — and if the consumer, on their end, really wants to consume good information, then maybe they’ll learn as well.

I like how you believe that the false news is coming from people who want to be good journalists, but they are just falling short of the mark.

Ernest: Am I being Pollyannaish by assuming that some people out there who haven’t been schooled in journalism want to do it but just don’t know how to do it right? So maybe there’s one or two of those out there, and maybe the great majority are sick, malevolent people who want to destroy society… Or make a buck.

Ernest: Or make a buck, yeah. Taylor: The one thing that journalists do that maybe we’re not doing a good job with now in education, before they even get to college, is critical thinking. I think right now we’re already at this point where fake news is proliferating everywhere on social media. You can’t trust your friends. That paranoid thing is already there. So I’m just asking us to become more skeptical, but not [to become] skeptics yet. Maybe if they could just adopt critical thinking, step back from why they want to trust this and say, “Why should I trust this?”

Ernest: I’m wondering, in the end, is fake news going to die a natural death — much like maybe Twitter or something? You think Twitter’s going somewhere?

Ernest: Well — wish it, and maybe it will come true. There is something that is going to get into it and destroy it from within. If the skepticism gets viral, then there will be no clicks anywhere because no one will believe anything that they don’t see themselves, and even then, we might have some problems. If skepticism gets to our core, and nothing that we see on television or read has any impact because we don’t believe any of it, that will be the death of fake news. Of course, that will also be the death of society. T



By Dan Cook

VOL. 28, NO.1  13

Student Media gives Carolina students hands-on, real-world opportunities to explore the worlds of journalism and broadcast entertainment while they’re still on campus. USC Times dropped by their offices in the Russell House this month and caught them in the act.

The media landscape is changing rapidly, with print media continuing to decline in readership and circulation as digital media rises. Meanwhile, TV and radio are also evolving, and sustainable models of digital journalism are still few and far between. All the more reason for students considering media careers to get involved with the university’s Student Media organizations, which offer opportunities for hands-on, experiential learning in both print and web publication, as well as in TV and radio. Led by Director of Student Media Sarah Scarborough, below left, students do everything from writing articles and producing videos to designing graphics and selling ads. Taking part in Student Media is a chance for those considering media careers to learn the ropes and for others to indulge a passion or hobby. “Naturally, we have some students from the journalism school, but we also have students from every major and college you can imagine,” Scarborough says. “We have a lot of students who worked on their high school newspaper or yearbook and enjoyed it, but aren’t pursuing it as a career.” Larissa Johnson, below center, a junior Honors College student from Ohio, decided her sophomore year to major in journalism and immediately got involved with the Daily Gamecock. “A lot of people who graduate with journalism degrees haven’t ever worked in journalism,” she says. “I can say I worked on a daily schedule, and I worked with deadlines, and I know what it’s like.” Johnson rose from copy editor sophomore year to editor-in-chief in the spring semester of her junior year. She’s not sure whether journalism will be her career — she is also taking a lot of political science classes — but she sees the writing and other skills she has learned as valuable regardless. “I like challenges, and I like being stressed out,” she says. “I really enjoy what I’m doing.” For students like Luke Baker, below right, Student Media can also open doors they didn’t even know existed. A junior from Roanoke, Virginia, Baker had a longstanding interest in movies and entertainment but entered USC as a business major. After getting involved with Student Media, he added a media arts minor to his double major in marketing and management. Baker’s first idea was to try to write movie reviews at The Daily Gamecock, but he ended up at SGTV instead. “At the time they were doing an original online web series, and I was like, ‘Wow — I didn’t even know that was an option.’” Soon he was writing, acting and doing sound production for the series, a sitcom about a student trying to navigate college life. That led to video production and later to the position of station manager at SGTV. This semester, he is taking on a broader role as director of multimedia projects for all of Student Media. Student Media "provides students a chance to hone their skills and test drive a career if that's something they are studying," Scarborough says. Even if it's not, they can still get a lot out of it. "Each of our areas has a unique set of opportunities," she says. Her hope is that every student can find a place where he or she can "learn something, make a difference and do something that they enjoy doing."



Elias Tupper queues up a segment on WUSC.

Though The Daily Gamecock is a key revenue driver for Student Media, it's not the largest part of the organization in terms of participation. Over the course of a year, approximately 100 students take part in the campus radio station, WUSC; 85 work at the student TV station, SGTV (the fastest-growing part of student media); 60 get involved with The Daily Gamecock; and 40 contribute to the magazine Garnet & Black. In addition, about 10 students sell advertising and five do graphic design and layout.

Jake Margle marks up page proofs for Garnet&Black.

VOL. 28, NO.1  15

TUNE IN Students can take part in print and web publishing at The Daily Gamecock newspaper or Garnet & Black magazine; TV production at SGTV; or radio at WUSC, the long-running station at 90.5 on the FM dial. Participation is open to all students regardless of year or major.

SGTV student staffers in the production studio


A PRIZE-WINNING LARK By Craig Brandhorst


rowing up, Michael LaForgia, ’05, never thought about becoming a journalist. He liked reading, he liked writing, he paid attention to the news, but when he got to the University of South Carolina, he majored in English, not journalism. “I wasn’t one of those kids who really sweated the career thing,” he says. “I knew that I enjoyed writing, and I figured that I would try to do something around that.” Fifteen years later, he’s the investigations editor at the Tampa Bay Times — and the recipient of not one but two Pulitzer Prizes for Local Reporting, first for his contributions to a 2014 series about corruption in a Hillsborough County housing program, and most recently for an in-depth series on racial discrimination in a school district near Tampa, Fla. The first series took five months. The latter, which concluded in 2016, took 18 — and tapped the talents of several other reporters, among them education reporters Lisa Gartner and Cara Fitzpatrick (LaForgia’s wife), who shared in the win. And both series have had real-world impact, leading to the firing or resignation of public officials and, in the case of the schools story, greater investment in an underperforming district. “For us, it’s not a ‘We gotta nail these scumbags’ approach. It’s more, ‘What in the world is going on here?’” says LaForgia, who took over as investigations editor in 2016 following the departure of fellow alumnus Chris Davis, ’94. “Once we get the story out there, maybe a conversation will start, and once a conversation starts, maybe there will be some change, or maybe there won’t, but at least we did everything we could to put it out there.” It’s a ton of responsibility for a guy who started as a walk-on at the college paper.

“I hadn’t thought about being a reporter until I started working at The Gamecock,” LaForgia explains. “I saw a sign for an interest meeting when I was a freshman and looked into it on a lark. It was fun to go out and learn the job by doing it. That appealed to me.” But he wasn’t winging it. While soaking up Shakespeare and postmodern lit in his English classes, he was also paying close attention to his peers at the paper. “I picked up a lot of stuff from the J-school kids at The Gamecock, foundational stuff,” he says. Meanwhile, LaForgia was feasting on the work of established newspaper reporters like Katherine Boo and Anne Hull, both of the Washington Post. “I read a story about a grocery store by Anne Hull when I was sophomore, and it kind of changed my life,” he says, recalling Hull’s 2001 analysis of gentrification and consumerism, “Divided Feast.” “I couldn’t believe you could do that type work and put it in a newspaper. That made me want to be a reporter.” Eventually, LaForgia was named editor at The Daily Gamecock. He also interned at the Summerville Journal Scene, covering county government and education, and later in Cape Cod. He supplemented his income — and his education — as a stringer covering high school sports, even after graduation. Eventually, he landed at the Palm Beach Post, where he spent six years before joining the Times. “I just kind of picked it up by doing it,” he says, “and the editors straightened me out if I ever started to go off path, which of course I did.” Among those influential editors was Davis, who was impressed by LaForgia’s systematic approach to reporting. Davis had come to the Times after winning a Pulitzer at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, and brought LaForgia on as part of an effort to retool the paper’s investigations team. Two years later, LaForgia

was celebrating that first big prize with Davis, fellow reporter Will Hobson and the rest of the staff. “It felt great,” LaForgia says, but the former English major was also a little anxious. What had begun freshman year as a lark had turned into a high-stakes pursuit. “It was funny, after I won the first Pulitzer I felt some anxiety,” he says. “I felt like was supposed to manage a quote-unquote career, or make a plan or something, in a way that I hadn’t really ever thought about. But then I thought, you know what? All I’ve ever cared about was the story, and that’s worked for me so far. I just need to do that, go find good stories, and everything else will follow.” T

VOL. 28, NO.1  17

MEET THE PULITZERS Tampa Bay Times investigative reporter Michael LaForgia, '05, didn’t win two Pulitzer Prizes on his own. He did so as part of a team — one run until recently by editor and fellow alumnus Chris Davis, ’94 print journalism. Davis left the Times to become vice president for investigative reporting at USA Today Network in 2016, but guiding four Pulitzer-winning projects to print (including a third at the Times and one at the Sarasota HeraldTribune) has given him more than an impressive resume. “The best part of my job is listening to really talented reporters who have come back,” says Davis. “They’ve gotten something amazing, and they’re in your office or they’re on the phone or they’re sending you a text in the middle of the night saying, ‘Oh my God, you won’t believe what I just got!’ It’s being part of that chase toward the truth and coming up with something big.”

Chris Davis and Michael LaForgia

To read more about LaForgia and Davis, check out the spring issue of Carolinian magazine, out in April.





Adding it all up USC Salkehatchie undergraduate John Risher is a successful math major — and he can count the reasons on two fingers. No. 1 is Wei-Kai "Bryan" Lai, his mathematics professor, who has taught Risher several courses and with whom Risher co-presented a paper at a recent national mathematics meeting. No. 2 is Risher’s own determination to succeed in an academic subject that once gave him fits. “In elementary school I was not an A/B student, and by the time I was in seventh grade, math and I didn’t get along,” Risher says. After barely passing algebra in the ninth grade, Risher was frustrated that math had become his greatest weakness. “I remember praying that I could somehow overcome it.”

VOL. 28, NO.1  19

Wei-Kai Lai and John Risher

The summer after his freshman year in high school, Risher’s uncle gave him a copy of “Algebra for Dummies.” Risher spent the entire break poring over the book and subsequently notched an A in algebra II. Then he passed geometry with flying colors and came to the conclusion that he really liked mathematics after all. So much so that after his sophomore year, Risher, a Walterboro native, signed up for a college algebra course at USC Salkehatchie. The one problem? He was only 15 — technically too young to enroll. “Dr. Lai pushed for me to be able to take the course, though, and I thought, ‘This guy stuck his neck out for me,’” Risher says. He repaid the professor’s kindness by making the highest grade in the class. Lai has gone the extra mile for Risher several times since then, devoting time and effort to direct independent study courses that will help Risher advance toward his goal of earning a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. Lai downplays the sacrifice of time — it’s just part of what it means to be a college professor, he says. “John really wanted to do research, so I chose the topic of mathematic inequalities,” says Lai, who joined USC Salkehatchie’s faculty in 2008. “It’s an important topic in many mathematical competitions, and John’s project was to generalize some results that were introduced by me and another mathematician in an academic paper.” With Lai’s assistance, Risher presented his findings at the Joint Mathematics Meetings, held in early January in Atlanta. “I’m in hog heaven about it,” he says. “I realize not a lot of undergraduates get that opportunity.” The experience of collaborating with Lai and presenting at a professional conference has whet Risher’s appetite for bigger things. “I never had a teacher who just cared so much,” he says. “When I started at Salk, I didn’t even think about majoring in math. But after working with Dr. Lai, I’ve decided not only to become a math major but to one day become a math professor myself.” Neither of Risher’s parents has a high school education and none of his siblings have college degrees, he says. “One reason I want to earn a Ph.D. and become a teacher is because I see how much Dr. Lai has given back to me and other students. I want to pay it back.” USC Salkehatchie Dean Ann Carmichael says she’s proud of both the student and the professor. “Bryan Lai is not only a scholar but a master teacher,” Carmichael says. “He inspires his students and brings out the best in them. The extra time and effort he puts into making sure his students learn is indicative of his genuine interest in their success.” Risher plans to begin commuting to USC Columbia in the fall to finish the rest of the degree requirements for a B.S. in mathematics. Graduate school might be somewhere beyond, but Risher isn’t too concerned about the timeline. Now that he’s found his bearings — and with the help of his professor mapped a plan — the journey toward a bachelor’s degree is enjoyable enough. T


Over the years, USC’s Student Media has provided a training ground for writers, editors, photographers, designers, DJs, producers — even Pulitzer Prize reporters (see page 16). This

month, USC Times rounded up the leaders of The Daily Gamecock, Garnet & Black, WUSC and SGTV and then asked them how they got involved, why they like it and what they’re getting from the experience.

MILLS HAYES, Station manager, SGTV


LARISSA JOHNSON, Editor-in-Chief, The Daily Gamecock

JAKE MARGLE, Editor-in-Chief, Garnet & Black

"The Student Media program here

"I WUSC joined as a freshman and

"I really wanted to be part of a

"I like showing people a part of

is advertised really well, especially

did a regular show two hours a week

community and see what journalism

our culture, or a subculture, that

through the journalism school. That

every Saturday night. The quality of

was like from outside the journalism

maybe they know nothing about,

was one of the big reasons I came to

the people here, the diversity — it’s

school perspective. The Gamecock

or that they’re not a part of. After

Carolina. I love the fast pace, I love

pretty awesome. And then, where

is very hands-on. Everything’s run

I graduate, I’d like to work for a

deadlines, I love the stress, and it’s

as an undergraduate do you get to

by students, so it’s hectic and a little

magazine like i-D or Vice that does

been so amazing to have people rely

supervise 90-plus DJs and work with

more disorganized than what you

in-depth reporting that’s not too

on me, to have to coordinate events

an executive staff of 10 to 12 people?

might find at a professional paper,

newsy. I like longer-form,

and make sure our social media is up

Without a doubt, this has helped

but it’s also more spontaneous

narrative writing."

to par. The 24-hour news cycle was

prepare me for the real world."

and organic."

made for me."

USC Times February 2017  
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