Charlotte Observer reverses e-mail request

Charlotte Observer Editor Rick Thames said Monday the paper would shelve its request for local residents’ e-mail addresses. “While we did not view these invitations as a ‘commercial use’ of the e-mail lists, we respect the concerns of those who did,” he wrote on his Inside Story blog.

People registered with the Charlotte/Mecklenburg County website received  an e-mail last week explaining that the newspaper had requested the e-mail list and that, because of the state’s open records law, the local government had to provide the names. The request came from the newspaper’s director of strategic products and audience development.

Media critics, this blog included, complained about the move, suggesting that the ability to gather public information for profit is not the point of the state’s hard-won open records laws.

Thames said Monday the paper wanted the addresses “to invite citizens’ input on news coverage” and that they have other ways to do that.

So, is there where we all call them weenies now for backing down?

Elsewhere, Charlotte/Mecklenburg County notified its subscribers that it will seek legislation that would allow it to deny requests for e-mail databases and instead allow only public inspection of this information. Wake and Yadkin counties already have such exemptions.

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