Now is the time to stand with the Marion County Record. Here's how.

Caitlin Vogus Headshot

Deputy Director of Advocacy

A police raid on the Marion County Record has sparked a firestorm over press freedom. The Record needs and deserves our support.

Kansas Reflector/Sam Bailey. Used with permission. Original image available at https://kansasreflector.com/2023/08/12/police-defend-raid-on-kansas-newspaper-amid-backlash-over-brazen-violation-of-press-freedom/.

If you care about press freedom, you’ve probably heard about the alarming police raid on the Marion County Record. Based on the flimsiest of legal excuses — a local business owner accused the Record of violating her privacy by checking her driving record on a state website — police searched the newsroom and home of the paper’s publisher, carting off computers, phones, and other devices. One of the Record’s co-owners, Joan Meyer, died the next day.

Five days after the raid, officials withdrew the search warrant and returned all of the seized items to an attorney representing the Record.

The Record is a small newspaper with a circulation of about 4,000. Among the items seized were servers that had the only copies of the ads meant to appear in the next edition. Incredibly, the Record’s staff was able to publish on time, despite the raid. And its circulation has rocketed by 50%.

Eric Meyer, editor and publisher of the Record, told KSHB-TV in Kansas City, “Without the outpouring of support on this, we'd probably be out of business right now.”

You may be wondering what you can do to help the Record and fight back against this outrageous attack on press freedom. Here are three ideas:

1. Support the Marion County Record financially

The Record could undoubtedly use all the financial support it can get. You can subscribe to its online edition for a year for just $34.99. Perhaps you’d like to get the word out about how you feel about the raid, press freedom, and First Amendment rights? You could buy a classified ad in the Record to make your views known.

The Record also faces legal costs — both from fighting back against the raid and, potentially, future legal action it can (and, in our view, should) take against the authorities who violated its First Amendment rights. The Society for Professional Journalists (SPJ) has pledged to cover up to $20,000 in legal fees for the newspaper.

You can donate to SPJ’s Legal Defense Fund and earmark your pledge for the Record by checking the “Dedicate this Gift” box and writing “Marion Record” in the name field when you donate (for now, SPJ has a banner on top of its site specifically for Marion donations to make it even easier).

2. Honor the memory of Joan Meyer

Record co-owner Joan Meyer’s funeral is planned for this Saturday. Before she died, Meyer condemned the raid on the Record as “Hitler tactics.” According to her son, she also asked repeatedly, “Where are all the good people who are supposed to stop this from happening?”

Let’s honor Meyer’s memory by making sure something like this doesn’t happen again. Speak out on social media in memory of Meyer and in support of press freedom on Saturday.

Consider paying your respects in person, if you are able to attend the funeral. According to Max Kautsch, counsel to the Kansas Press Association, “Kansas Press Association members from across the state plan to honor Joan by attending her services on Saturday. … [T]he KPA will show our support by simply showing up and celebrating the life of Joan and supporting Eric [Meyer] and the Marion County Record.”

Meyer’s family has also asked that donations in her memory be made to the Kansas Newspaper Foundation in care of Jost Funeral Home at P.O. Box 266 in Hillsboro, Kansas 67063.

3. Pressure Marion Police and government officials over the raid

The raid has been widely condemned by press freedom organizations, journalists, and news media outlets, garnering national and international attention. According to Kautsch, “Due in no small part to the outpouring of support for the Marion County Record in the aftermath of the search of its newsroom, the government officials responsible for the raid ought to have a better understanding of the First Amendment this week than last.”

But we can’t allow this story to fall off the radar as the public, press, and officials move on to the next day’s news.

The warrant may have been withdrawn, but the government isn’t being transparent about what happened or how police could get a search warrant for an apparently illegal raid — which authorities now admit had no connection to any alleged “crime” — in the first place. Police have refused to answer questions from reporters about the raid. There are also questions about Cody’s own past that need answering, especially given that the Record was reportedly investigating him before the raid.

This lack of transparency is wrong. The raid itself was wrong. If you live in Kansas, write to your government officials to ask them to demand transparency, including the immediate release of the search warrant application and a full investigation into how the raid came to be. Wherever you live, write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper or post on social media to call attention to the raid and other press freedom violations. Call on the Department of Justice to investigate potential violations of constitutional rights, as it has in other instances where police suppressed protected speech. Use your voice to speak up for press freedom.

In addition to helping the Record, support local journalism in your own community

The Record is just one example of a local newspaper punching far above its weight to inform its community. Consider supporting journalism in your own area by subscribing to a local news outlet or making a donation to a local nonprofit newsroom.

Contact your member of Congress to urge them to support the Community News and Small Business Support Act, a bill that would also go a long way toward increasing funding for local journalism. While we hope no other newsroom will face a similar situation to the raid on the Record, it’s important to ensure a thriving local press that has the resources to protect itself and resist pressure from police or others.

The Marion County Record is fighting back in the face of this stunning assault on its First Amendment rights. Now is the time to take a stand and show them “the good people” are with them.

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