Following is the Public Editor column from Sunday, Aug. 17, 2008:
The News & Observer seems to be increasingly at odds with government these days over public records.
This month, the paper's lawyers protested when a state judge sealed records related to handling of drunken-driving charges in Johnston County. Before that, the fight was over access to search warrants in the murder case of Nancy Cooper, the Canadian-born Cary mom. In May and June, the paper sued for access to autopsy records in the Eve Carson murder case.
The N&O has been in an ongoing battle with Gov. Mike Easley over access to e-mail records and has sued to stop his administration from destroying e-mails. The latest skirmish came last month, after The N&O requested e-mails from six officials of the Department of Health and Human Services relating to the opening of the new Central Regional Hospital in Butner.
In a column Aug. 3, Executive Editor John Drescher complained that it took the department a month to respond to the request, including 11 days for the public information office to forward the request to the officials. Drescher called Easley's office "the worst administration in decades" in terms of open government, then issued this warning to the two major-party candidates who want to replace Easley:
If you are as obstructive as Easley, he told Patrick McCrory and Beverly Perdue, "We will fight you. We will sue you. We will report on your obstruction and law-breaking. And I will pound you in this column."