In defense of aggressive small-town newspapers

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Promoting press freedom in the 21st century

The raid of the Marion County Record prompted some to ask whether the Record's aggressive journalism was appropriate for a small town. We wrote for the Columbia Journalism Review that the fact that question was even asked shows how the decline of local news has warped perceptions of the role of the press.

Kansas Reflector/Sherman Smith. Used with permission. Original image available at

Last month’s police raid of the Marion County Record’s newsroom and its publishers’ home sparked nationwide outrage. But some also questioned whether the Record may have been asking for trouble through its aggressive approach to small-town reporting.

We wrote in the Columbia Journalism Review that the reason for the misguided debate over the role of newspapers in small towns like Marion is:

"not because newspapers like the Record are crossing the line by agitating small-town officials [but] because those officials have grown unaccustomed to healthy scrutiny. And perhaps some of their constituents have forgotten the benefits of a robust Fourth Estate.


The prevalence of “news deserts” has apparently led some to think it’s normal for neighborhood news outlets to function as lapdogs rather than watchdogs."

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