Journalism Under Attack In Kansas — First Amendment And Death

August 13, 2023

Asshole morons, obvious First Amendment violations in the biggest journalism story of the year, and death by anxiety — nothing heavy, plus creating another example of the Streisand effect.

(Illustration found here.)

I read about the asshole raid by police in Marion, Kansas, on Friday, and it looked like a shitstorm about to strike as it seem evident even at that time cops has really screwed up. Illegal on its face, with a massive breach of media rights. Apparently, all to figure out who disclosed a DUI.
Nutshell this evening via The Washington Post: ‘Police in Kansas raided a local newspaper and its publisher’s home on Friday, seizing computers and other records — an action that sparked outrage from First Amendment advocates and that may have contributed to the death of the paper’s 98-year-old co-owner on Saturday.


Background per the Kansas Reflector from Friday:

Eric Meyer, owner and publisher of the newspaper, said police were motivated by a confidential source who leaked sensitive documents to the newspaper, and the message was clear: “Mind your own business or we’re going to step on you.”

The city’s entire five-officer police force and two sheriff’s deputies took “everything we have,” Meyer said, and it wasn’t clear how the newspaper staff would take the weekly publication to press Tuesday night.

The raid followed news stories about a restaurant owner who kicked reporters out of a meeting last week with U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner, and revelations about the restaurant owner’s lack of a driver’s license and conviction for drunken driving.

Meyer said he had never heard of police raiding a newspaper office during his 20 years at the Milwaukee Journal or 26 years teaching journalism at the University of Illinois.

“It’s going to have a chilling effect on us even tackling issues,” Meyer said, as well as “a chilling effect on people giving us information.”

The search warrant, signed by Marion County District Court Magistrate Judge Laura Viar, appears to violate federal law that provides protections against searching and seizing materials from journalists. The law requires law enforcement to subpoena materials instead. Viar didn’t respond to a request to comment for this story or explain why she would authorize a potentially illegal raid.

Emily Bradbury, executive director of the Kansas Press Association, said the police raid is unprecedented in Kansas.

“An attack on a newspaper office through an illegal search is not just an infringement on the rights of journalists but an assault on the very foundation of democracy and the public’s right to know,” Bradbury said. “This cannot be allowed to stand.”

Meyer reported last week that Marion restaurant owner Kari Newell had kicked newspaper staff out of a public forum with LaTurner, whose staff was apologetic. Newell responded to Meyer’s reporting with hostile comments on her personal Facebook page.

A confidential source contacted the newspaper, Meyer said, and provided evidence that Newell had been convicted of drunken driving and continued to use her vehicle without a driver’s license. The criminal record could jeopardize her efforts to obtain a liquor license for her catering business.


Sometime before 11 a.m. Friday, officers showed up simultaneously at Meyer’s home and the newspaper office. They presented a search warrant that alleges identity theft and unlawful use of a computer.

The search warrant identifies two pages worth of items that law enforcement officers were allowed to seize, including computer software and hardware, digital communications, cellular networks, servers and hard drives, items with passwords, utility records, and all documents and records pertaining to Newell. The warrant specifically targeted ownership of computers capable of being used to “participate in the identity theft of Kari Newell.”

Officers injured a reporter’s finger by grabbing her cellphone out of her hand, Meyer said. Officers at his home took photos of his bank account information.

He said officers told him the computers, cellphones and other devices would be sent to a lab.

“I don’t know when they’ll get it back to us,” Meyer said. “They won’t tell us.”

The seized computers, server and backup hard drive include advertisements and legal notices that were supposed to appear in the next edition of the newspaper.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” he said. “We will publish something.”

Lots more at the Reflector link. Meyer shared a home with his 98-year-old mother, a home which was raided, too.
Further from the Guardian this afternoon:

Joan Meyer, 98, collapsed on Saturday afternoon and died at her home a day after she tearfully watched officers who showed up at her home with a search warrant cart away her computer as well as an internet router, reported the Marion County Record, which she co-owned. After officers also photographed the bank statements of her son, Record publisher Eric Meyer, and left her house in mess, Meyer had been unable to eat or sleep, her newspaper said.

Meyer was “in good health for her age”, the weekly newspaper asserted. And the headline of its report on her death said the police’s decision to raid the Marion Record’s offices along with the homes of its reporters and publishers was not only illegal – but had also contributed to bringing on the end of Meyer’s life.

Attempts to contact both Marion’s police chief – Gideon Cody – and the judge who authorized his agency to conduct the raids aimed at the Record, Laura Viar, for comment on Meyer’s sudden death were not immediately successful.

As the Record has told it, the weekly’s ordeal began when a confidential source leaked evidence that a local restaurant proprietor, Kari Newell, had been convicted of drunk-driving but continued using her car without a license.

The newspaper never published anything related to the information because its staff reportedly suspected the source was relaying information from Newell’s husband during their divorce. Nonetheless, after police notified Newell that the information was going around, she alleged at a local city council meeting that the newspaper had illegally obtained and disseminated sensitive documents.

Major point (beyond Joan Meyer’s death): ‘Police haven’t detailed what information they have to suspect a Record journalist had any hand in an alleged crime. Seth Stern of the Freedom of the Foundation told the New York Times: “You can’t say, ‘I’m allowed to raid the newsroom because I’m investigating a crime’ if the crime you’re investigating is journalism.”

If Newell had just kept her mouth shut, this whole clusterfuck would have washed. As it stands now, she’s a national celebrity and is known as an obvious asshole.

And something nice from Kansas to soothe, or something:

Newsroom madness, or not, yet once again here we are…

(Illustration out front: Salvador Dali’s ‘Hell Canto 2: Giants,’ found here.)

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