Buncombe County – The Tribune/Leader newspapers were not sent a media notice about Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Millers’ Tuesday (Feb. 26) press conference that became national news, essentially censoring the newspapers’ coverage of the event.
At the press conference Sheriff Miller announced that “Effective immediately, it is the policy of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office and the Buncombe County Detention Center that ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) detainers will not be honored.”
Asked about the “oversight” of the Tribune/Leader not getting a notice of the press conference, Aaron Sarver, Public Information Officer with Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, said, “To answer your question, I consider the media outlets with the most reach as the ones we seek to have attend our press conferences: the four TV affiliates in WNC, Citizen-Times, Mountain X, BPR, the Associated Press, Mark Starling at 570AM radio. ”
He went on to say, “Your question as I understand it becomes where is the cutoff, do we invites bloggers, citizen-journalists, individuals who are “Facebook reporters” etc.? We don’t currently, but as I have with the Weaverville Tribune, I respond to questions in a timely manner, whether that be from WLOS or a citizen-journalist. I do not use that term in a negative or condescending manner.”
“While Mr. Sarver may not mean any ‘negative or condescending manner’ in his statement, the fact that we are more than a 15-year-old weekly newspaper that has for years been used by Buncombe County government to publish legal notices, so I know that he is not talking about us,” said Clint Parker, editor and publisher of the Weaverville Tribune/Leicester Leader. “Anyone of our freelance reporters is part of our newspaper and are not “citizen-journalist” which by the way should be treated the same by the sheriff’s office. All they have to do is add our email address to the rest of the media group, and voilà we get the same notice as everyone else. In point of fact, The Weaverville Tribune is part of the Tribune Papers, which includes The Hendersonville Tribune, The Asheville Tribune, The Leicester Leader, and Weaverville Tribune, all of whom have a ‘considerable reach in the area.” The Tribune’s newspaper’s website reaches tens of thousands of readers a month.
“There are no statutes that require any public agency to release press releases or governs who should receive press releases if they are sent.,” said Attorney Amanda Martin with the North Carolina Press Association when asked about the slight by the sheriff’s office. “You certainly would have a right under the public records law to ask for copies of any and all press releases sent out.”
“Because of the stance of the sheriff’s office toward this paper, we have no choice, but to ask Mr. Sarver each and every day for any correspondence sent to the media as is our right and which is subject to open records laws,” said Parker.