North Carolina Newspaper With No Backbone Apologizes For Its Request For Public Records

from the incredible dept

It's no secret that the latest decision by many newspapers to publish records of gun-permit holders after obtaining them via Freedom of Information Act requests is somewhat controversial. Some people are against the practice and think that such information should not be public. Wherever you come down on that side of the debate, however, hopefully you can recognize that since (in most places) the information is officially a public record, no publication or news organization should ever have to apologize for merely requesting the information. And yet, as pointed out by Jim Romenesko, The Cherokee Scout in Murphy N.C., posted an astoundingly groveling apology to its readers last week for the sin of daring to request public records:

NOTE TO READERS

The Cherokee Scout made a tremendous error in judgment this week, and thanks to our readers we learned a tough lesson.

As publisher of your local newspaper, I want to apologize to everyone we unintentionally upset with our public records request for a list of those who have or have applied for a concealed carry permit. We had no idea the the reaction it would cause.

Sheriff Keith Lovin had the best interests of the people of Cherokee County at heart when he denied our request. The Scout would like to offer an apology to him as well.

To that end, Editor Robert Horne spoke with Lovin on Friday morning to tell him we were withdrawing our public records request. He asked for a written copy of request, and Horne dropped it off at his office that morning.

While Horne was on the phone with the sheriff, he also thanked him and his staff for their quick response when some people who saw Facebook posts started making personal threats against him. Horne also requested a sit-down meeting in the near future to iron out any issues between the Scout and the sheriff's office, which Lovin graciously accepted.

I realize many people are upset with Horne, myself and the Scout and we can understand that. We never meant to offend the wonderful people of this fine community nor hurt the reputation of this newspaper. We do a lot of positive work that helps make Cherokee County an even better place to live, and I hope more good work will repair our reputation with readers.

Many of you have asked where Horne is from. He is from a small town in south Georgia — Cairo, Ga., to be exact. It is a rural area much like Murphy, and his roots are helping him better understand this community. [He has been editor of the paper since 2005.]

As for myself, I attended Murphy High School. I was married and baptized here, and three of my children are proud Bulldogs. This county has been important to me for a long time.

I know where this community is coming from, and I hope we can regain your trust. I know it may take a while, but we're going to try. Thanks for reading.

Sincerely,

Publisher David Brown

Newspaper publishers are supposed to stand up for their right to ask for public information, not grovel about how it was a mistake to ask for it in the first place. People might not like it, but newspapers aren't supposed to only report on the stories that people like. If that's the case, they're no longer a newspaper, they're a marketing brochure.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2013 @ 1:38pm

    Re: Re: Re: Logic FAIL

    Quote:
    And if criminals request this information, that's a lead for the police to follow when those exact homes get burglarized. Whereas if it's in the paper, anybody could know.


    So? wait until criminals discover how to use GIS(Geographic Information Systems), oh boy it will be a boom for business.

    Quote:
    Many of them actually argue that NOT knowing whether the house has a gun is the deterrent. The reality is that most criminals would be deterred by a gun, but the ones that want to steal guns would be attracted to them.

    That shouldn't be a problem since people who bought a gun in the first place are the ones that bought it to protect them against this very situation. Part of the deterrent part of any mechanism is image that it brings to mind, nobody would believe that a flower could stop crime and so criminals don't care if there is a garden or not.

    If information can be used to attract criminals it also can be used do discourage them, print the crime rate of the area and the crimes solved ratio, nobody is going to a neighborhood where they will certainly be caught. Guns alone will not protect you against anything, at this point they are a feel good thing to have, real deterrent is in group planing, surveillance and data sharing.

    Also we are in an age where people have developed less than lethal weapons those could be used incentivized by not requiring registration like normal guns.

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