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A small town newspaper in North Carolina, the Cherokee Scout, submitted two public records requests to the local Sheriff's office for a list of local citizens with gun permits. The sheriff denied those requests, and a local PR nightmare for the paper ensued. What followed was a capitulation from the newspaper so thorough as to terrify.

The full text of the apology is below, but here's a taste: "Sheriff Keith Lovin had the best interests of the people of Cherokee County at heart when he denied our request."


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.

David Brown

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.


Publisher David Brown

Text taken from Image of the apology letter from the paper's site.
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Comment Preferences

  •  That's what happens... (6+ / 0-)

    when you try to pull a stunt like that in the south. If it pisses people off in New York, you can bet on triple that once you cross the Mason-Dixon.

    •  It isn't a latitude thing. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kurt, MrJersey

      Rural Northerners are just as crazy about their guns... the New Yorkers from my home town in the boonies 300 miles from Manhattan have been reacting the same as all the rest of the crazies since the Newton shootings.

      •  Re: (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Black and Blue

        If releasing identifying information on private citizens is so great and "not crazy," why are you posting from behind a pseudonym?

        •  Because DKos is not a public entity (0+ / 0-)

          My home value is public information, and can be accessed by anyone online.
          My salary as a teacher is public information, and this information is linked on my local newspaper's website for all to see.

          My concealed carry permit is public information.
          My work email is available to the public

          Same with: Auto registration, criminal records, business licenses, and any other item that had to go through public channels.

          My DKos login is private, just like my personal email and browsing history, so I fail to see your point other than the fact that you don't think the public should be able to view certain public information?

          If anyone can go online and access my payroll information, my property tax payments (or non-payments), my mugshot if I were to get arrested. and my marriage license, why should they not be able to view any other documentation, such as a CC permit?

          I guess it boils down to the same thing every time. Why is it different when a gun is involved?

  •  reminds me of the time that the local paper (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    noway2, happy camper

    began publishing reports of traffic tickets each week, before they had been to court.  In many of the cases, the people ticketed were able to get the cases dismissed.  However, quite a few took umbrage at having their names published with the charge of reckless driving (35 in a 15 zone).

    Assuming the paper intended to publish the names and addresses of permit owners, I am not so sure this would be a good idea. This could turn out to be a shopping list for burglars.

    I don't care for the Sheriff's self congratulatory attitude and wish the paper made it clear exactly the purpose the records were requested. Generally I view FOIA as too limited and too weak when it comes to the release of public information  

  •  The newspaper's request... (6+ / 0-)

    ...was pretty stupid.  What better way to tell the whole world who's not armed?

    Boehner Just Wants Wife To Listen, Not Come Up With Alternative Debt-Reduction Ideas

    by dov12348 on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 10:59:51 PM PST

  •  WRAL did the same thing about a year ago (5+ / 0-)

    with most of the residents of the area called the Triangle (Raleigh, Durham, and a few other counties).  They abused the purpose and intent behind the information being available.  If a person wants this information they need to go to the Sheriff’s office, identify themselves, and go on record as to why they need or want this information.  WRAL obtained the information and then published peoples names and addresses.  When this created an uproar, they tried to "fix" the database to remove names and deny that they ever had it, only to have screen captures with proof start making the reports.  In many cases, it was possible to identify the person even without the name simply by the address.  

    This list included people who obtained permits as part of protection orders and this stunt was a further violation of their privacy.  There were also reported burglaries of published addresses following the incident that are believed to have been caused by this action.  It was an abuse of the intent of the freedom of information.  The system was abused with the intent to try to embarrass the public for engaging in legal activity.  The sheriff was right to deny the request.  The legislature is also now under pressure to privatize the records.   The paper's response in this diary was not terrifying, it was spot on.

    One of my favorite sayings applies here, do stupid things and win stupid prizes.

  •  Holy crap (4+ / 0-)

    This is my home county.  Just finished building my "dream" home there a year ago.

    Between the illiterate good old boys on the county commission and what I thought were supposedly educated, somewhat balancing crew that runs the paper, I find myself questioning my choice.

    However, it is important to note that this all was kicked off when one of the bozo county commissioners proposed a resolution, that just passed the same week as this fiasco occurred stating "The board opposes all federal acts, laws, rules, regulations, executive orders, executive actions regarding firearms that are a violation of the 2nd Amendment and which impinge upon or limit the rights of citizens to purchase or possess firearms".

    On top of that, it also calls upon all county citizens (including me I suppose) to "lawfully" resist the enforcement of any federal laws the commission may deem in violation of the 2nd amendment.

    They sit there every week and complain about jobs and wonder why no one wants to relocate their business to a county where the good ole boy commissioners think they are also Supreme Court justices.

    I'm an atheist....but lord help me.

    You can bomb the world to pieces but you can't bomb it into peace - michael franti

    by FarmerG on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 05:14:09 AM PST

  •  There should be a law protecting privacy of those (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Black and Blue, VClib

    records. This stunt proves it is necessary.

  •  This is no different (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Black and Blue, VClib

    than publishing a list of people who have purchased expensive home electronics: it ends up being a shopping list for burglars. The newspaper did the right thing by dropping this request.

    "A lie is not the other side of a story; it's just a lie."

    by happy camper on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 06:37:49 AM PST

  •  I don't know. People want to know who the sex (0+ / 0-)

    offenders are who are living among them.  It seems the same was wanting to know who the gun nuts are who live among them.  Kids, stay away from that house on the end of the block, that guy has 25 AR-15's there and who knows when he is going to use them.

    And it feels like I'm livin'in the wasteland of the free ~ Iris DeMent, 1996

    by MrJersey on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 10:12:06 AM PST

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