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Charlotte Area

Observer Changes Plans For E-Mails

http://66.225.205.104/GC20110125.mp3

The Charlotte Observer will not use the e-mail lists it's seeking from several local governments, but it will follow through with its requests to obtain the records. The paper was hit with complaints after the city of Charlotte alerted its e-mail subscribers that their addresses would soon be turned over to the Observer to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request. The request was filed by an employee who has marketing responsibilities. But Observer editor Rick Thames says the paper never intended to use the e-mails for marketing purposes. "We're only interested in it for journalism reasons," he told WFAE last week. In this case, that meant inviting people to become part of a source network to help the paper on stories. But that explanation didn't satisfy a lot of people. Complaints poured in. People were upset the paper would use the list to send unsolicited e-mail. Thames wrote on his blog today that the criticism prompted the paper to shelve the idea. He also apologized. But the paper won't withdraw its requests for the government records. Thames says the paper needs to see them to determine their relevance. The North Carolina League of Municipalities wants lawmakers to pass legislation that would regulate access to citizen e-mails compiled by local governments. People could still see the lists, but they wouldn't get them in an electronic format.