Dorchester's online newsroom receives prestigious honor from SC Association of Counties

Dorchester County's Administrator Jason Ward and Public Information Officer Tiffany Norton showoff the J. Mitchell Graham Memorial Award, handed out by the South Carolina Association of Counties. The county won the 2019 award for its online newsroom work. 

This month Dorchester County’s online newsroom helped earn Dorchester County its first-ever J. Mitchell Graham Memorial Award from the South Carolina Association of Counties (SCAC).

The Association announced the county as the award recipient during the closing ceremony of its annual conference on Tuesday. The award recognizes counties that address community challenges, implement operational improvements, or enhance their citizens’ quality of life in a unique way.

“This honor is a testament to the hard work of our Public Information Officer who has elevated the county’s communications management to the highest industry standards while providing an essential service to our citizens, businesses and visitors,” said County Councilman George Bailey, in a statement.

County Administrator Jason Ward echoed Bailey’s thoughts.

“Winning the award is a high honor, and I’m thankful to be recognized for our efforts,” Ward said.

The online newsroom successfully competed against high-caliber entries from Charleston, Barnwell, Horry and York counties. Each entry represents the best qualities of local governance including attention to details; service to citizens; efficient use of tax dollars; and improvements in the quality of life.

The competition entailed submitting an application package with supporting documentation as well as a 10-minute presentation demonstrating how creative problem-solving and collaboration can achieve impressive results while also showcasing new ideas for other counties to consider.

The capability to tell the county’s story was identified in the county’s three-year strategic communication plan. The challenge was with just a Public Information staff of one, the office was inundated with data calls and lacked the ability to maintain a central source of information.

The county made the decision to combat this challenge by establishing a single point of information — an online newsroom. All department heads and subject matter experts now funnel their information to this source, and it is prepared for publication by the county’s public information officer.

During the first (full) year of the online newsroom, the PIO published 123 articles. The central information hub strategically placed the county in a position to provide accurate, meaningful content to all audiences, in the quickest most efficient manner possible.

The news distribution tool significantly reduced the spread of misinformation and time resources spent by the PIO to respond to data calls, creating a more efficient department and cohesive voice for the county.

The Dorchester County Delegation accepted the honor on behalf of the county.