A Cost/Benefit Analysis

Freedom of the press isn’t just implied in the First Amendment’s Free Speech clause, although that clause clearly extends to the media. According to historians, the country’s founders wanted to explicitly protect press information-gathering, because democratic processes depend on an informed electorate.

That understanding–that constitutional principle–is what makes a police raid on a Kansas newspaper so appalling. (When a reader first alerted me to this, I was certain there had to be more to the story–that the initial reports must have been wrong. I was the one who was wrong.)

As NPR has reported:

The small-town Kansas newspaper raided by police officers on Friday had been looking into allegations of misconduct against the local chief just months ago, according to the paper’s publisher, raising further concerns about the law enforcement officers’ motives.

The Marion, Kansas police department confiscated computers, cell phones and a range of other reporting materials from the office of the Marion County Record — the sole local paper in a small city of about 2,000 residents. Officers spent hours in the newsroom. It also seized material from one of its journalist’s homes. Eric Meyer, the publisher and co-owner of the newspaper, said his 98-year-old mother passed away the day after police raided her house, where Meyer was staying at the time. He said he believes the stress from the raid contributed to her death.

The background to the raid is particularly telling: the Record had conducted “routine background checks” just before police chief Gideon Cody took office. That “routine check” was evidently informed by anonymous tips the paper received after it ran a story about his candidacy for the police chief position.

Cody was sworn in as Chief in June, after retiring from the Kansas City Police Department in late April. Meyer was quoted as saying that “It was alarming, to say the least, the number of people who came forward, and some of the allegations they made were fairly serious. We were simply looking into the question.”

When a reporter asked Cody to comment on the allegations, Cody threatened to sue the paper, and the department stopped providing routine information to the newspaper. And then,

County magistrate judge Laura Viar signed a search warrant on Friday morning, authorizing the Marion police department to raid the Record. The warrant cites suspected “identity theft” of a local restaurant owner as the reason for the raid.

On Friday, just after the raid, the Record requested access to the probable cause affidavit — the document that would outline why the judge saw reason to authorize the raid — from the Marion County District Court.

But the court’s written response, reviewed by NPR, indicates that document may not exist.

There’s more, and it will undoubtedly all come out as other media outlets investigate the threat posed to press freedom by this episode. But what is especially troubling is that this bit of official thuggery comes at a time when local newspapers are disappearing. 

As an article in the Atlantic noted, local newspapers don’t just serve democracy–they also save tax dollars. The article cited a story in the Salt Lake Tribune, revealing that San Juan County, Utah, had paid a single law firm hundreds of thousands of dollars in lobbying fees. The story also reported that the firm had overcharged the county, the poorest in the state, by $109,500. Embarrassed, the firm paid the money back.

That one story retrieved for taxpayers a sum that was triple the reporter’s annual salary. As the author of the article noted, funding local news would more than pay for itself.

In addition to providing citizens with the information needed to make democracy work, in addition to the tax dollars saved when government is under the eye of media watchdogs, local newspaper reports feed community , especially in rural areas. A recent article from the Washington Post focused on that function.

At a time when hooligans have hijacked the national discourse with disinformation and paranoia, the Rappahannock News operates in a calmer place where the slow rhythms of rural life are newsworthy — and where, regardless of political views, its readers are unified by a powerful sense of community… 

Similar newspapers once bound together communities everywhere. A century ago, The Post, too, carried items on the humdrum comings and goings of local residents. Though the news became impersonal in big cities, community papers continued to be at the core of rural and small-town America.“

As a Local News Initiative official puts it, local news organizations are the glue that hold the community together. When there’s a void of local news, people revert to the blue and red echo chambers and national news sources that confirm their own belief sets, and it aggravates partisanship.”

That Kansas sheriff obviously doesn’t care.


  1. “It also seized material from one of its journalist’s homes. Eric Meyer, the publisher and co-owner of the newspaper,”

    This appears to be using fear tactics as a warning to the few remaining newspapers nationally, NOT owned by corporations who are buying up and controlling information to local residents. The death of Eric Meyer’s 98 year old mother the following day is probably the result of the police terrorism and a reminder of the mother and daughter Election Board workers, Ruby and Shay, in Georgia by Republicans to aid Trump’s turnover of the state’s presidential election. “A Cost/Benefit Analysis” is vital in today’s economy but the hidden cost of voting rights is not included in the analysis. Partisanship can be found at the base of these losses of human and civil rights, including the right to life. We are fast losing the “right to know” nationally; the Indianapolis Star is a prime example. No fear of IMPD raids as the Star doesn’t publish the dark side of our Republican officials, they are protected by whoever owns the Star at this time in the game of news’ Musical Ownership and who control the news.

    All local residents are the victims here as are the Marion, Kansas townspeople.

    “As a Local News Initiative official puts it, local news organizations are the glue that hold the community together.”

  2. As an aside; this morning I found an E-mail from Lichtenstein@t-online.de which contained a thank you for using Wells Fargo Bank Messenger Site which I do NOT use. Tried Googling information but found geographical information on Lichenstein and the t-online.de is an information posting site but no connection between the two. The recent news about Wells Fargo Bank records being hacked and customers not finding their personal or automatic deposits in the accounts makes me wonder if there is a connection. I do NOT bank at Wells Fargo; I do NOT bank on line. Has anyone else received this message or have an idea where it could come from? Thank you!

  3. The Kansas Reflector, that state’s part of the States Newsroom network of local non-profit news organizations of which the Indiana Capital Chronicle is a part, led the reporting. Many national and international outlets based their stories on the Reflector’s articles. The Reflector is still investigating the incident.

    Locally, it’s interesting to see how heavily the Indianapolis Business Journal, for one, relies on the Indiana Capital Chronicle for its coverage of Statehouse and political news.

    The States Newsroom network is doing good work.

  4. @JoAnn – I receive those types of messages all the time. Delete, delete, delete.

  5. Nobody questioned this thug from the justice system he operated – that is scary! I would imagine the judge who signed the search warrant is particularly upset but won’t stop the wrongful death lawsuit heading their way by the newspaper’s owner.

    This thuggery is why many local papers have become entertainment rags for locals. Indiana’s newspapers are the lamest I’ve ever witnessed, and they all go back to Gannett’s management (if you can call it that).

    By the way, Gatehouse owns Gannett, which Softbank owns out of Japan. They have zero interest in holding the oligarchy accountable. Zero!

    Just covering a government meeting isn’t sufficient much of the time. You have to go deeper into why this is happening. Superficial reporting doesn’t give citizens all they need to vote informed at the ballot box. Obviously, this Kansas sheriff had baggage that didn’t come out during his candidacy. Someone skimmed over his background until whistleblowers stepped forward. That’s how journalism works, but this country has raged war against whistleblowers.

    Until all the newspapers fulfill our constitutional duty, we fall short of democracy. The citizenry is ill-informed or misinformed intentionally. As illustrated, Marion, KS, now have a mess to clean up.

  6. I’ve been following this story and hope the local newspaper sues the sheriff and also hope he gets fired.

  7. The county obviously didn’t do a background check before hiring the new sheriff. It seems, however, that the local officials are just pleased as punch to be welcoming him. I (don’t) wonder why?

  8. I wonder if the people of Marion County, KS, now know who they elected to the office of the principle law enforcement agent in their community, to say nothing of the magistrate who acted without cause in suppressing the rights not only of the local media but of themselves. It certainly underscores the need for local journalism.

    Much like the local paper that uncovered the truth about George Santos, even before his election, these local reports are lost in the cacophony of infotainment that passes for “news” these days.

    The active attack on what is likely the only local news source in that community portends more of the same across the country. The loss of even one life in such an action should be a screaming warning to everyone. Who will stand for you?

    The national news cycles in all media are dominated every day by the exploits of tfg to the point that major reports of significance to the public good get lost. Weariness of the constant noise around felony45 causes me to turn off the radio/TV almost every day. That in itself is a warning. If it happens to me, a real news junky, what does it mean to those who just tune out or never tune in at all?

    How do we live up to the standards that the Constitutions of our state and nation lay down for us all, to be informed citizens, if the agents of information are continuously monetized and controlled by profiteering corporations? Corrosion of trust just feeds the movement to authoritarian rule. Without trusted news sources and the advent of AI, how will we trust anything unless we actually witness any news ourselves?

    The countries of the world clearly see that our word is only as good as the next administration in power. The suppression/manipulation (propaganda) of verifiable information endangers our lives and our communities like death from a thousand cuts.
    The corrosive elements of distrust are present all our country and most of the rest of the world. Is a major world war inevitable?

    I am sad that I am too old to be around to help the next generation push back.

  9. They’ve learned well haven’t they? Fake press, anything that threatens the grifters and the dishonest brokers, the hypocrites and the near do wells that hold some sort of authority, are targeted and smeared! It happened in Germany, it happened in Italy, it happens in Russia and China, anywhere cockroaches nest in the dark.

    When some of the biggest most powerful cockroaches make a mockery out of government, it encourages the smaller roaches to venture out into the sunlight because there is no real fear anymore.

    The die has been cast, The infestation is overwhelming. So either, it all has to be torn down to get rid of the infestation, or, gassed!

    The exterminators, which would be the court systems, have been neutered. There is one left, and he could make the difference. But, the hesitancy of this one will allow the host to be devoured.

    Again, history repeats. No lessons are ever really learned, because everyone’s too intellectually constipated to believe they can do the same thing that’s been done for millennia and expect a different outcome. Mortality is humanities largest problem and biggest enemy. There is no chain of knowledge, if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make noise? That shouldn’t even be a thought, but it seems to be embraced. It isn’t going to be ‘FIXED,’ because the capability doesn’t exist in the human genome.

  10. At first glance it seems all to be a reflection, and a consequence of, the shredding of democracy, but there is a history of law enforcement attracting bullies (as in “A Clockwork Orange,” and infamous sheriff Joe Arpaio). “Investigate the police chief? Try that in a small town,” from Tim says a lot.
    The negative folklore about small town sheriffs has just been supported. Kansas city may well have been happy to see this guy retire.
    Now, DeSantis has real competition for the VP spot on the Orange Ogre’s ticket!

  11. VS; I also delete those E-mails but can’t remember what was on the subject line that made me uncomfortable enough to click on it to unsubscribe before deleting and permanently deleting it. I get E-mails in foreign languages on my in box and on SPAM and delete and permanently delete. There was no way to unsubscribe; I sent it to SPAM, then deleted and permanently deleted as I do all of those messages. Fingers crossed that ends whatever it is.

  12. It should be noted that the right-wing extremist reactionary, Chris Kobach, is the AG of Kansas. He will make sure that this Marion Gestapo event gets swept under the rug.

    As noted above, when the right-wing lip strummers have nothing worthwhile to offer, they default to Hunter Biden. Their stream is very shallow.

  13. The fact that this small town Gestapo thought they could get away with their criminal activities is distressing. But they didn’t get away with it. The story is revealed, is being investigated and there are consequences they must now face. At the very least, they have opened themselves to civil suits. There may well be criminal charges against them and disbarment for the judge.
    Much of our distress may stem from the delay between their actions and their punishment but, as I have expressed before, I wouldn’t trade the slow progress of our courts for the speed of the lynch mob.

  14. Just read an update on the story in The Kansas Reflector. The town’s council meets this coming Monday afternoon to discuss the sheriff’s hiring. The funeral for Ms. Meyers took place today.

    What occurred is deplorable but I take heart in the fact that the event was reported. Our system, as imperfect as it is, held.

    Let’s see how the rest of the story unfolds.

  15. Subscribed to Marion County Record (KS) online only. Little birthday present to myself. Subscriptions of all types are pouring in to their paper!

  16. Note that this is not a retaliation by the police. The paper hadn’t yet run the story they’d been asking about. This was terrorism.

    Michael Wright, I find no comfort that the system held. Consider Trump’s attempt to overturn the American project. It failed, sure, but only barely. And with it being so difficult to hold anyone accountable, wrong-headed people are not discouraged in any way. As with all these various attempts, both big and small, at this point it seems they just get to keep trying until they succeed.

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