Posted Nov. 5, 2014
By Doug Fisher, senior instructor, Journalism and Mass Communications
Students in the multimedia section of the Intermediate Reporting and Production class, had a busy fall leading up to Election Day. Working with The State newspaper, the six students in Doug Fisher's class provided a complete package of stories and multimedia elements examining Lexington County's attempt to get voters in one of South Carolina's most conservative counties to approve increasing the sales tax from 7 percent to 8 percent.
Students wrote the stories, took the photos and gathered extensive audio to allow readers to hear directly from those involved. The package included profiles of the key influencers in the campaign as well as an explanation of the critical early role of social media. There were also in-depth looks at the issues raised in some of the county's population centers:
- Along Cayce's "restaurant row" on Knox Abbott Drive, where owners found themselves explaining the potential new tax to customers already upset at that city's new hospitality tax.
- In Chapin, where the prospect of major improvements to the road leading to Interstate 26 had the town, once semi-rural but now a growing suburb, assessing its future.
- In Gilbert, where the attitude at a popular country store and lunch counter was that Lexington County was, as one person put it, "just a bunch of crooks."
- In Batesburg-Leesville, where local leaders hoped the promise of street improvements would help attract more visitors and return the town to its role as a hub for the state's "ridge" agricultural region.
- In Lexington, where the owner of 14 Carrot Whole Foods feared intersection improvements and the loss of a traffic signal outside his store could kill business.
The package ran in The State from Oct. 27 - Nov. 1, often on the metro section or business section front pages, and was consolidated at Columbia Voice, the online site for Fisher's beginning and intermediate reporting classes, where readers could access all the stories and take a quiz on the tax increase proposal, see an interactive time line and look at an interactive map summarizing the issues in each area.
On Election Day, the students were at the polls in Lexington and Richland counties, helping to measure voter turnout and gauge voter sentiment for The State.