A small-town Marion police department raided a local newspaper’s headquarters on Friday, seizing a ton of crucial documents in an unusual action that has now left the publication crippled.
The Marion County Record and its workers were the targets of three raids on Friday by the Marion Police Department, which consists of five officers and two sheriff’s deputies. Computers, cell phones, and other reporting materials were seized as a result of the raids, which took place at the newspaper’s office, the home of its publisher Eric Meyer, and the residence of one of its reporters.
Meyer disclosed in the Record’s article about the raid that the newspaper, which has been in business for decades, now lacks the reporting and publishing tools required to print its next edition. The publication intends to bring a federal lawsuit against the City of Marion, the Marion police department, and everyone involved in the search, the publisher further disclosed.
The Kansas Reflector reported the initial news of the raid.
Meyer, a former University of Illinois journalism professor, stated that the raid by the Marion police department occurred after a confidential source provided critical papers regarding local restaurateur Kari Newell to the newspaper. The information that Newell had been convicted of DUI and was operating a vehicle without a license, according to Meyer’s source, might cause problems for her liquor license and catering company.
Meyer, however, claimed that he eventually made the decision not to publish the Newell report after considering the objectives of the source. Instead, he said that he simply informed the Marion police department of the information.
The raid sparked uproar online right away, prompting questions about why the entire police force from the Marion police department was involved in a raid that might have broken the law and could have heightened the existing anti-press rhetoric that is dangerous for journalists who are just doing their jobs.
The Marion police department claims the raid is connected to an investigation into illegal conduct using a computer and identity theft, according to the search warrant for the Marion County Record Office that The Reflector was able to obtain.
Chief Gideon Cody of the Marion Police Department declined to comment on the event, but he suggested to The Daily Beast that it is a “criminal investigation” that may contain more information than what is currently being made public.
Upon the request of the Marion Police Department on August 8, according to a Kansas Bureau of Inquiry spokesperson, the agency launched “an investigation into allegations of criminal wrongdoing” in the community an hour outside of Wichita.
The Daily Beast surveyed a number of experts and campaigners about this issue, and they all agreed that it is a little more challenging and would discourage local media from covering public personalities.
Others are questioning whether the search warrant signed by Marion County District Court Magistrate Judge Laura Viar followed federal legislation protecting journalists from searches and seizures.
Meyer continued by saying that in his nearly five decades of training future journalists and working in the industry, he had never heard of a police agency raiding a newspaper. And although he is adamant that he would keep running his hometown newspaper, he is well aware of the impact that this will have on his outlet.