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From the Publisher's Desk


Dear Readers,

I write to you with a heavy heart and a sense of urgency about a situation that should echo not just in Kansas but resonate across the nation. It's about the raid on the Marion County Record, a weekly newspaper that became the battleground for a clash between press freedom and the very core of our democracy.

Last year, on Aug. 11, the Marion County Record's offices were raided, along with the home of its publisher, Eric Meyer, and a city council member's residence. This wasn't just a raid; it was an intrusion into the heart of our democratic values, a brazen assault on the Fourth Estate, which stands as a pillar of accountability and truth.

The repercussions of this incident extend far beyond the borders of Marion, a town of around 1,900 residents. It pushed Marion into the limelight of a national debate on press freedom, putting it on the map for reasons no community would ever want. The raid wasn't just an isolated event; it was a targeted attack on the free press, a deliberate attempt to silence the voices that dared to question authority.

This incident thrust the Marion Police Chief, Gideon Cody, into the spotlight, as the paper was delving into his past. The very person responsible for upholding the law was now the center of a controversy that had profound implications for democracy itself.

The tragedy deepened when Eric Meyer's 98-year-old mother passed away the day after the raid. Meyer attributed her death to the stress caused by the events that unfolded. Within days, the local prosecutor declared there wasn't enough evidence to support the raid. Legal experts weighed in, suggesting that the actions likely violated state or federal law. Gideon Cody resigned in early October, acknowledging the untenable situation.

Now, the story takes a political turn, with Kansas lawmakers attempting to bring transparency to the investigation. Thirty-five Democrats and 10 Republicans introduced a resolution condemning the raid and urging Attorney General Kris Kobach to release information about the investigation. The resolution, however, faces uncertainty in the Republican-controlled legislature, illustrating the partisan challenges in addressing issues that should unite us all.

The resolution, spearheaded by Representative Mari-Lynn Poskin and Democrat Dennis "Boog" Highberger, emphasizes the need to safeguard press freedom and civil rights. It seeks to uncover the truth behind the raid and demands accountability for any violations that occurred during the process.

The resolution's journey is set to traverse the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Susan Humphries, a Wichita Republican. The fate of this resolution hangs in the balance, as questions about transparency, freedom of the press, and the sanctity of our democratic principles loom large.

The resolution explicitly connects the raid to the death of Eric Meyer's mother, Joan Meyer, emphasizing the human cost of such assaults on journalism. It boldly declares that the raid undermines "the role of journalism in encouraging engaged, civic-minded, critical thinkers." Indeed, this is not just an attack on one newspaper; it's an assault on the very foundation of our democracy.

As we navigate the intricacies of this saga, let us not forget that the Marion County Record's story is a story for all of us. It raises questions about the necessity of the raid, the issuance of search warrants, and the broader implications for press freedom in our country.

In closing, I echo the sentiments of House Speaker Dan Hawkins, who emphasized the importance of freedom of speech and law and order. The normal committee process should not be a smokescreen for inaction. We, as a community and as a nation, must demand transparency, accountability, and an unwavering commitment to the principles that define us.

In defense of democracy and press freedom,
Chris Herbolsheimer
West Plains Daily Quill & West Plains Gazette