The Shelby County Commission is subpoenaing The Commercial Appeal for "the identities of anonymous commenters on its website," the newspaper reported itself.
The Commercial Appeal is a daily Memphis newspaper with a circulation of about 119,000, Mondo Times reports.
In question are "racially charged comments" on stories about "the merger of Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools," according to Memphis CBS-affiliate WREG News Channel 3. The Knoxville News Sentinel added that comments were posted on 45 articles and that the newspaper had "deleted as inappropriate" some comments.
The Commercial Appeal explained:
"In a subpoena filed last week in federal court, the commission asserts that when crafting laws to okay municipal school districts, Nashville legislators were responding to prejudiced constituents, including ones who made inflammatory comments on the newspaper's website."
According to WREG, commissioner Steve Mulroy is quoted as saying the subpoena is "to see if there’s an overlap between the people who were contacting Nashville and influencing them to pass these laws, which are the subject of the court suit on the one hand, and the list of people who were making racially charged comments behind the cloak of anonymity.”
Commercial Appeal also editorialized to note that its policy instructs the newspaper "won't share" commenters' "personal information with others" and that "the paper thinks a deal is a deal." Further, the newspaper added that it plans to "hold fast, for now, and resist the effort to turn over the names."
We have written to Louis Graham, the managing editor of the Commercial Appeal, for more information and will update with any response.
We've previously covered Washington state newspaper The Spokane Spokesman-Review's battle against a subpoena calling for anonymous commenters accused of libeling an Idaho woman. In mid-July, a judge called for the newspaper to identify one commenter, but the commenter identified herself before the newspaper decided if it would appeal the order.