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Stories of Our State: South Carolina

Ever thought about a home birth using a midwife?  Ever been to God’s Healing Acre to get some divine spring water?  Want a deep look into South Carolina’s 25-year fight over public school funding?  Welcome to the “Stories of Our State: South Carolina,” an in-depth, multimedia look at stories impacting South Carolina.  All stories are produced by SJMC students over the course of a semester under the guidance of Instructor Andy Burns.  Enjoy our new initiative: Stories of Our State: South Carolina.


Walking Out

Walking Out: The Push for Public Education Reform in South Carolina

In early 2018, high school teacher Lisa Ellis was fed up. She made a Facebook post asking if other teachers were also fed up.  A year later, 10,000 teachers rallied at the South Carolina Statehouse to push for education reform. USC student Cory Michael Peeler follows her journey from frustration to a statewide movement, culminating in an education reform ultimatum for lawmakers that more than 30,000 teachers support. Will the reforms lower South Carolina’s high teacher turnover rate?

Image of arcade mall

Down Under Columbia: An interactive tour of the Mysterious Underground Mall

It is a rumor and a legend in the Midlands.  Is it really down there?  A mall?  Underneath Main Street?  In downtown Columbia? 

Closed and shuttered for more than 40 years, the mysterious mall that was a playground for Midlanders during the 1970’s is now easy to explore with this 360 degree interactive our, created by Jacob Cohen. You can also experience the tour on mobile in virtual reality.

Explore, enjoy, and remember … yes, it’s really down there.

Pee Wee Gaskins

The legend of Pee Wee Gaskins


First Place: Best Student Multimedia Report
2019 Radio Television Digital News Association of the Carolinas/Associated Press

16th Place: National Multimedia Hearst Awards

A string of murders kept South Carolina residents terrified in the early 1970s. A serial killer was on the loose. One who published an autobiography.  The claims were incredible:

Over 110 murders:  the most from any serial killer in American history — several times more than the Zodiac Killer, Ted Bundy, or any other household name.   And yet, his name is one you would not recognize.  Kyle O'Connor looks into the legend of South Carolina’s most infamous — and unknown? — criminal:  Pee Wee Gaskins.


In their home: An intimate look at home birth in South Carolina


Second Place: National Hearst Award

She had six children. She was pregnant with her seventh. She wanted a different kind of birth — at home, with her family.

Dee Peifer allowed Kristin Stitzlein to document her birth experience. For four months, Stitzlein followed Peifer, her midwife, and two other home birthing couples. She also spoke with obstetricians. From there, things got complicated.

Stitzlein's short documentary details Peifer's experience and the tension apparent between the midwife vs. OBGYN models. Stitzlein also included a photo essay of Dee’s labor and birth. The infographic details the various licensing available in each state.

Tale of Two Schools

After a 25-year legal battle over school funding, SC still struggles with “Minimally Adequate” model


13th Place: National Hearst Award

A public school teacher near Hilton Head got school funding for multi-colored chairs because she read colors stimulate children’s brains.  Another public school teacher near Hilton Head maxed out her personal credit cards just to have some books in her classroom.

J-school student Brooke Rakowski went to both schools and spoke with both teachers.  She found that a 25-year battle over how the state funds its public schools is back to square one.  A written and documentary profile of the two teachers and their schools is linked to the “story” and  “video” tabs.  A full timeline of the 25-year-old “Abbeville” court case is linked to the “Timeline” tab.


Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.