Dear Reader

Dear Reader | Complaints about Memorial Day memorials; Continuing coverage in aftermath of Myrtle Beach shootings; Respect for freedom of information laws

cmurray@thesunnews.comJune 3, 2014 

Carolyn Murray, editor for The Sun News in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

My inbox was overflowing with comments, questions and complaints even before the Memorial Day weekend violence. Allow me to address at least some topics that have crossed my cyber-transom.

Memorial Day tributes

I wrote earlier about The Sun News’ project to recognize area veterans in a project that included a month’s worth of weekly front-page articles as well as special pages in which family members or others could provide a photo and purchase a memorial honoring their service.

Yes, I said purchase. The tributes, some of which included a photo and the veteran’s military branch and years of service, cost either $15 or $25 each. For each veteran listed, we also erected an American flag in a display across the front of our highly visible building on U.S. 17 Bypass.

The project aimed to “honor, support and remember all military personnel who have served or continue to serve our country.” A portion of the proceeds was donated to Wounded Warriors, something we were proud to do last year as well.

Larry W. Long, of Myrtle Beach, was among the readers who were offended by our effort. He wrote: “Please note, when you honor or pay special tribute to someone you go about it in an act of love and kindness, not for financial gain.”

Another said Memorial Day should be reserved only for those who died in service to our country.

One person took it upon himself (or herself) to cover up the banners we had placed with the flag display on with two neon yellow signs that said: “For a Price, $10 or $25.”

Unlike the views of the trespasser, or the previously mentioned writer, the project was not aimed at financial gain. It was aimed at showing our community our commitment to our veterans by providing residents a way to participate in the tribute, and by donating a portion of the proceeds to a group that helps many of those veterans. But we are a business and we must cover our costs, which include newsprint, staff time and ink, all of which add up.

We are proud to be part of this community, we are proud of its military heritage and, spoiler alert, we likely will provide a similar platform for honoring our veterans next year.

Motorcycle rallies

That reaction was quickly overshadowed online and in our in-boxes by the reaction to the violence over the weekend, just as that violence overshadowed the month’s worth of Military Appreciation Days events.

Many of those reactions were, frankly, vile and not productive when it comes to finding a common ground to restoring the area’s image. But many offered good questions about what contributed to the situation and what can be done about it moving forward.

That’s what our continuing coverage will address, with the hope that examining the history, the numbers and talking with all the stakeholders will provide leaders with information critical to their decisionmaking.

Freedom for information

Speaking of numbers and information, last week I met with several of my counterparts at other daily newspapers across the state and the Freedom of Information Act was a topic that took up much of our discussion. More specifically, the talk was about the failure of public agencies to consistently comply with the law.

Some agencies may not understand what’s required, and just need some continuing education. Others use the law as a way to delay the release of documents and data, and not just to the news media, but to taxpaying citizens who have a right to review records that show how those tax dollars are being spent.

So allow these few paragraphs to put officials in Horry and Georgetown counties on notice. We know what’s required and will be happy to explain the laws to you. And we will continue to push for documents and information if we feel you are not sharing what citizens have a right to know.

Thanks to all who shared their views and information with me over the past few weeks. I have a huge backlog of letters to the editor as a result of your generosity. And of course, thanks for following the news we bring you via myrtlebeachonline.com on your phone, tablet or laptop, and the old fashioned way on newsprint.

Contact Editor Carolyn Callison Murray at cmurray@thesunnews.com or follow her on Twitter @TSN_ccmurray.

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