Aiken suspends Quorum website

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: For more than two years now, Blythewood investigative journalist Ron Aiken has kept Richland County residents informed with approximately two in-depth investigative pieces per week, and he published them on his website, QuorumColumbia.com. Some of those have been reprinted in The Voice. They covered everything from the University of South Carolina to bingo rackets to school boards to local government. Along the way, reporting from this site has led to 11 indictments (so far) regarding hospitality-tax fraud, the removal by the governor of an entire board of commissioners (Richland County Recreation Commission) and positive changes to work conditions including pay and benefits for first responders to cite just a few examples of impact.

But recently, Aiken was offered and accepted a full-time position that will mean he no longer will be able to produce Quorum. More’s the pity. While Aiken told The Voice he is looking forward to his new venture, he regrets that the end of Quorum could be another nail in the coffin for open government. Below is Quorum’s farewell.

BLYTHEWOOD – Local media matters, and it’s dying before our eyes as cut after newsroom cut mean there is no longer a reporter (and hasn’t been for a long time) at every municipal, school board or even county council meeting, much less the zoning, work session and committee meetings of each.

With fewer and fewer reporters to do the same amount of work and more, it’s no wonder that investigative journalism has gone by the wayside in many cases because bodies simply can’t be taken off what few beats are covered well to dive into deeper issues that require significant outside research time, often take weeks or even months to complete and require skill sets honed over years of professional experience. And, sadly, those veteran reporters were among the first targeted by industry cuts because they carried the highest salaries, and they have since all but disappeared from newsrooms that have no choice but to rely on young reporters hired as cheaply as possible.

When I started at The State in 1999, we had six writers in the sports department alone with more than 30 years experience — Bob Cole, Bob Gillespie, Bob Spear, Ernie Trubiano, Blythewood’s Pat Robertson and Bill Mitchell. Now there are only four writers total in that department, with only one having been there more than three years. The same story exists in every other department of the paper.

What we’re losing — institutional knowledge, deep local connections, decades of experience — is irreplaceable. Journalism is the public’s insurance policy against corruption, and at present it is a weakened, shaken and dizzied creature.

I hope sites such as Quorum can help spark a recovery, because the role of investigative journalism — holding government and elected officials accountable and exposing corruption and fraud — is critically important not just to the safeguarding of our rights but to the rule of law and the future of a free press.

Comments

  1. I think you should have such a reporter

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