“I’m not crazy about the federal government questioning reporters and editors about their news judgments,” said Bill Rogers, director of the South Carolina Press Association, which represents the state’s daily and weekly newspapers.

Rogers added: “What is the relevance of news decisions as to whether small businesses can enter the broadcast industry? Viewers evaluate coverage for content and fairness, and the marketplace responds accordingly.”

For the time being, broadcasters in South Carolina are waiting to see what they ultimately hear from the FCC, once the study design is finalized. As WLTX’s O’Dell put it to me: “This is a strange one.”

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Corey Hutchins is CJR's Rocky Mountain correspondent based in Colorado. A former alt-weekly reporter in the Palmetto State, he was twice named journalist of the year in the weekly division by the SC Press Association. Hutchins worked on the State Integrity Investigation at the Center for Public Integrity and he has contributed to Slate, The Nation, The Texas Observer, and others. Follow him on Twitter @coreyhutchins or email him at coreyhutchins@gmail.com.