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North Meck Newspaper War Intensifies

A newspaper war in Huntersville appears to be intensifying. The CEO of Carolina Newspaper Group, which runs the (Huntersville) Herald Weekly, was temporarily banned from the local post office. The Lake Norman Citizen cites a Huntersville Police Department record in reporting that the Herald Weekly's Alain Lillie visited the post office Feb. 24 to complain about distribution of the Citizen. Things got heated, the Citizen reports: According to a report filed by Huntersville police officer A.R. Burnette, "Mr. Mayne told Mr. Lillie (that) 'effective immediately, you are banned from this property. That includes the entrance, parking lot, post office and surrounding areas. Do you understand?'" The Herald Weekly reports here that the ban has since been lifted after Lillie appealed the decision. "He is allowed to go to our window and our box lobby" like any other customer, said Leslie Johnson Frick, marketing manager for the postal service. As you may expect, the newspapers' accounts of the incident have different tones. The Herald Weekly's headline says Post office lifts temporary ban on Herald owner. The headline in the Citizen reads Herald Weekly owner banned from post office. The Citizen's story includes more details from the police report. It also notes that the incident occured on the same day that the Herald Weekly had a full-page ad that attacked the Citizen. Here's an excerpt: As Mr. Lillie was leaving the gated area, he called Mr. Mayne (an expletive) and told (Mayne) to 'meet him in the parking lot,'" Burnette's report says. Lillie's demeanor was a bit more civil with police officers, however. "Before leaving the property," Burnette writes in his report, "Mr. Lillie asked me and Officer (M.) Yates if we had ever been in the ... Herald newspaper as 'Officer of the Month.' We politely said, 'no,' and began walking back towards our patrol vehicles. Mr. Lillie stated that he knew someone at the ... Herald and would make sure to try to get us in there." The newspaper prints a sponsored HPD "Co-Worker of the Month" feature, but the honored HPD employee is named by the police department, not by the paper. Mayne told police the Feb. 24 encounter was the latest of "several run-ins with Mr. Lillie at the post office," the report adds. Lillie, meanwhile, issued this statement for the Herald Weekly's story: I must say I'm really surprised this is even news. I first visited the Cornelius post office and had a professional meeting with its postmaster about concerns about potential unfair mass-mailing business procedures offered to a competitor. From there, I went to the Huntersville location to discuss the same topic. After having the opportunity to review the police report, which did not include my side of the story, I disagree with many of the postmaster's apparent statements and his apparent account of the events to the police. When I arrived at the Huntersville post office, I simply entered the loading dock area that I've always frequented to discuss bulk mail issues. For what it's worth, the layout of the Huntersville post office is very similar to the post office in Matthews, where we still utilize the postal service and where we are asked to enter at the loading dock area. After being invited into the rear of the Huntersville post office building by two postal employees, I was told the postmaster was not available. I then left my number and proceeded to leave. At that time, the postmaster came screaming out of the building, yelled that I was trespassing and that he was calling the police. Baffled, I simply went to the front of the post office, waited for the police, made my statement and then went back to work. Again, I really am surprised that this is news at all. WFAE's Scott Graf reported last summer on the competition between the Citizen and Herald Weekly in this report, Weekly Papers Delivering In The Suburbs.