9, making clear she wanted to personally brief Cooper's chief of staff on the results of an audit showing lax oversight of county social service agencies due for release three days later.

Even though that message and the exchange that followed were relatively short and not likely to arouse controversy, the request to provide them did pose a problem for the auditor's staff.

Jim Hunt and others after taking the oath of office.

Without ready help from phone carriers or a program designed to make the process efficient, state officials say that providing text messages in response to public records requests is cumbersome and time-consuming.

By Mark Binker and Kelly Kelly Hinchcliffe of WRAL News, Emery P.

Dalesio of The Associated Press, Steve Riley of The News & Observer of Raleigh, and Frank Taylor of Carolina Public Press.

Additional reporting by Kymberli Hagelberg of the Greensboro News & Record, Ann Mc Adams of WECT, and Doug Miller of the Charlotte Observer.

Ten years ago, such conversations would have taken place by phone or email.

But we have to figure out how that works in a modern world." This story was reported and written in cooperation with the North Carolina Open Government Coalition as part of Sunshine Week, an annual effort to bring attention to how journalists use open records and open meetings laws to hold government accountable.

The coalition, based at Elon University, brings together news organizations, government representatives, and others who are interested in educating the public about the benefits of open government and expanding the rights of all citizens to gain access to public documents.

And there isn't a firm reckoning of how many state employees might be using private devices, private messaging on social media accounts and other services to keep in touch with constituents, vendors and fellow bureaucrats.

North Carolina's public records law, which was first drafted in the 1930s, certainly covers those short messages even if lawmakers of the Great Depression era or those who undertook more recent revisions didn't anticipate how much the office workers of 2017 would rely on text messaging.

When he looked for guidance, the policy cupboard was bare. That was a common refrain from employees across state agencies, many of whom said the coalition's request was the first time anyone had explicitly asked for texts from their senior leaders.