Local newspaper grovels over gun records request

“We never meant to offend the wonderful people of this fine community,” writes Cherokee Scout publisher David Brown

Published February 25, 2013 10:33PM (EST)

          (<a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-8057p1.html'>David Acosta Allely</a> via <a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/'>Shutterstock</a>)
(David Acosta Allely via Shutterstock)

The Cherokee Scout in Murphy, North Carolina recently submitted an information request about gun owners in their community. And like many other news outlets that have submitted similar requests in recent weeks, they were denied.

Now, for reference, here is what The New York Times wrote after its claim for data on gun permit holders was rejected: "We are still reviewing the decision and considering our legal next steps."

Here is what the Bangor Daily News had to say after their request was denied:

“We are disappointed with the reaction to our request, which we felt was with the best intentions to help study issues affecting Maine through an analysis of publicly available data.”

And here is what The Journal News, a New York paper, wrote after it took down an interactive map listing gun owner names and addresses:

"We knew publication of the database (as well as the accompanying article providing context) would be controversial. But we felt sharing information about gun permits in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings... We know our business is a controversial one, and we do not cower.”

But The Cherokee Scout and its publisher, Dan Brown, took a decidedly different route after their request was denied, and after the Murphy community responded with outrage over the paper's request for data on local gun owners: He begged for their forgiveness.

Some highlights include (emphasis mine):

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.

I realize many people are upset with [editor Robert] 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.

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. 

Talk about the courage of your convictions. You can read the full letter here.


By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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