Media blog pokes Cherokee Scout for apology over public records request

Share, under the headline “The Most Incredible Newspaper Apology Ever,” notes the Cherokee Scout’s backpedaling after it asked Cherokee County Sheriff Keith Lovin of a list of gun-permit holders and applicants. The information is public under the North Carolina open records law.

The sheriff responded by saying he had no intention of following the law and handing over names to the newspaper. Local readers also cried out in protest, arguing that their privacy was being invaded.

The newspaper retracted its request with this letter. The Feb. 21 letter notes, in part:

We should have expected Sheriff Keith Lovin’s posting of his correspondence with Editor Robert Horne, because he knows he can’t win in a court of law but wants to win the court of public opinion. … The truth is, as Horne wrote in his column on Feb. 20, we never had any desire nor intention to publish any names of any person carrying a concealed weapon. We did, however, want to see why Lovin objected to it being published.

But the national journalism blogger Jim Romenesko noted a Feb. 22 follow-up letter, in which the Scout fell even further back. The newspaper said it had made “a tremendous error in judgment” and had “learned a tough lesson.”

“We never meant to offend the the wonderful people of this fine community nor hurt the reputation of this newspaper,” wrote Publisher David Brown, who went on to note that he was baptized in Murphy and went to high school there, while his editor, Robert Horne, was from a small Southern town, too.

This controversy follows several heated exchanges in recent months between the public and newspapers requesting, and publishing, records for gun owners. Last December for example, The Journal News in New York infuriated readers when it published a map showing all handgun permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties.

Also, lawmakers in several states have moved to make the names of handgun permit holders private.

What do you think? Should the Cherokee Scout have pursued its request or did it make the right move by apologizing? Should such information be public record?

WLOS story from last week on the Scout controversy.

Thanks to loyal reader Mike for pointing me to this.


Wanted: One Cherokee Scout editor who toes the #$&* line March 20, 2013 - 2:30 pm

[…] Cherokee Scout made news around the nation in journalism circles recently regarding its handling of a public records request regarding gun permits. The resulting brewhaha resulted in the newspaper editor’s […]

Big Al February 28, 2013 - 9:12 am

The Cherokee Scout had every right to aquire and publish information on the public, even if it offends them.

The public has a corresponding right to withhold purchases and cancel subscriptions.

Maybe when newspapers realize that they are NOT irreplacable institutions, but PRODUCTS who need consumer support, they will stop being so sanctimonious.

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