To think that a newspaper — The Marion County Record in Kansas, in this case — was virtually shut down by a police raid at the heart of which may have been a marital dispute is mind-boggling.
The paper, as far as I can see, acted with diligence and equanimity when it came upon information supplied by a source with an ax to grind that probably, if published posthaste, would have undermined a restaurateur’s looming application for a liquor license, and might, if that source turns out to be the applicant’s estranged husband, have gained him title to the couple’s vehicles, her driver’s license having been suspended because of a D.W.I. conviction.
But the newspaper did not initially publish the information, The Record’s co-owner and editor, Eric Meyer, said, nor, he said, did the paper obtain it illegally, contrary to what the restaurateur, Kari Newell, angrily alleged at a city council meeting preceding the raid. The editor said a reporter had gained access to Ms. Newell’s sketchy driving history through a public website.
It was Ms. Newell apparently — not The Record — who brought her driving history to light at the public meeting, one that The Record covered, including her charge that the paper had come by it illegally and her admission to Mr. Meyer afterward that the information at issue was true.
The contretemps subsequently led to the aforementioned police raid in which computers, cellphones, et cetera, were summarily confiscated. Mr. Meyer said “the Gestapo tactics” had even led to the death of his 98-year-old mother, The Record’s co-owner, who was raided too. The Record tried to get the affidavit that prompted a judge to issue the search warrant, but was denied it.
Mr. Meyer has said The Record will file a federal suit citing “those involved in the search, which legal experts contacted were unanimous in saying violated multiple state and federal laws, including the U.S. Constitution, and multiple court rulings. . . . We will be seeking the maximum sanctions possible under law.”
Seth Stern, advocacy director at Freedom of the Press Foundation, was quoted in a recent New York Times story on the police raid as saying, “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.”
Good luck, Mr. Meyer. We’re with you.