From Tom Jones | Poynter <[email protected]>
Subject After national pushback, search warrant for Kansas newspaper withdrawn
Date August 17, 2023 11:30 AM
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It’s a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t fix the damage caused to the Marion County Record. Email not displaying correctly?
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** After national pushback, search warrant for Kansas newspaper withdrawn
A stack of the latest weekly edition of the Marion County Record sits in the back of the newspaper's building, awaiting unbundling, sorting and distribution, on Wednesday in Marion, Kan. The newspaper's front page was dedicated to two stories about a raid by local police on its offices and the publisher's home on Aug. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

A wrong has been righted? Well, maybe let’s not go that far. Serious damage has been done that can never be fixed.

But there was a step in the right direction on Wednesday.

The search warrant that led to the raid of a Kansas newspaper has been withdrawn, according to a story first broken by KSHB 41 I-Team reporter Jessica McMaster ([link removed]) .

Last Friday, police raided the Marion County Record, as well as the home of Eric Meyer — co-owner and publisher of the paper. A day after the raid, the paper’s co-owner and Meyer’s 98-year-old mother, Joan Meyer, collapsed and died in her home. Eric Meyer says he believes the stress of the raid was a contributing factor in her death.

The raids ([link removed]) came after the paper had received a tip about a local business owner and whether that business owner drove with a suspended license following a DUI charge in 2008. The paper never did run a story, and some believe the paper’s reporting on the police chief’s past might have played a role in the raids.

Whatever the reason, the paper argued that it did not do anything illegal. New outlets and First Amendment advocates across the country were outraged that the Record was raided and that its computers and materials were confiscated.

Then came the withdrawal of the search warrant on Wednesday.

Marion County attorney Joel Ensey put out a statement that said, “On Monday, August 14, 2023, I reviewed in detail the warrant applications made Friday, August 11, 2023 to search various locations in Marion County including the office of the Marion County Record. The affidavits, which I am asking the court to release, established probable cause to believe that an employee of the newspaper may have committed … Unlawful Acts Concerning Computers. Upon further review however, I have come to the conclusion that insufficient evidence exists to establish a legally sufficient nexus between this alleged crime and the places searched and the items seized. As a result, I have submitted a proposed order asking the court to release the evidence seized. I have asked local law enforcement to return the material seized to the owners of the property.”

Bernie Rhodes, the lawyer representing the Marion County Record, told The Daily Beast’s Pilar Melendez ([link removed]) , “This is significant progress.”

Rhodes added, “Eric is very pleased by the update, however, he is still somewhat cautious.”

Meanwhile, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation announced on Monday that it was looking into the matter, although it’s not clear if it is looking at the raid or at the newspaper — or both. The KBI announced Wednesday that it will continue its investigation. In a statement, a KBI spokesperson said, “We will work with the Marion County Record, or their representative, to coordinate the prompt return of all seized items. Once our investigation concludes we will present findings to the Marion County Attorney for review.”

Rhodes, the paper’s attorney, told The Daily Beast, “I appreciate the involvement of the KBI, which was able to step back and provide an independent look at what happened. Nothing, however, will satisfy the damage this incident has done to the newspaper, and this step does not bring Joan Meyer back.”

Also not pleased was Freedom of the Press Foundation director of advocacy Seth Stern, who said in a statement, “Authorities deserve zero credit for coming to their senses only after an intense backlash from the local and national media and an aggressive letter from the Record’s lawyer.”

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Read more and enroll now ▸ ([link removed])

** A tribute

The New York Times’ Clay Risen wrote an obit ([link removed]) about Joan Meyer, the 98-year-old co-owner of the Marion County Record. The obit also took readers into the paper itself, which has a staff of seven and a circulation of about 4,000.

Risen wrote, “The newspaper had a reputation for aggressive reporting alongside the sort of lighter fare often found in small-town publications. Recent coverage included an article about a thresher exhibition and an exposé of a scam involving supposedly free Covid tests.”

Risen wrote that Joan Meyer was “born on May 23, 1925, in Marion and rarely ventured beyond its limits. Her father, Ollie Wight, was a town marshal, and her mother, Mercil (Thompson) Wight, ran a funeral home. Before joining the staff of The Record, she worked in a grocery store, a hospital and an alfalfa mill.”

She began working at the paper in the 1960s, and her husband, Bill, who started working there in the late 1940s, was its top editor. The couple bought the paper in 1998. Bill died in 2006.

Risen wrote, “Mrs. Meyer set the tone for the newspaper as a punctilious editor — though she refused to let anyone, even her husband or son, touch her copy.”

** Headed to Hawaii

ABC News is amping up its coverage of the wildfires in Hawaii.

“Good Morning America” will dedicate the second hour of this morning’s broadcast to the latest in Hawaii, including an emphasis on relief efforts and neighbors helping neighbors. It’s all a part of a special called “Maui Strong.”

Meanwhile, tonight, David Muir will anchor “World News Tonight” and “Nightline” from Hawaii.

** Tuning in

When the Donald Trump indictment news came down in Georgia on Monday night, where did TV viewers turn? To MSNBC.

In prime time, as details of the Trump indictment were becoming public, MSNBC had nearly as many viewers as Fox News and CNN combined. MSNBC’s total average viewership in prime time was 3.1 million. Fox News had 2.2 million viewers, and CNN had 1.2 million.

Rachel Maddow hosted MSNBC’s coverage, which included an interview with Hillary Clinton in the studio.

** The controversy continues
Former NFL player Michael Oher, shown here in 2015. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)

I linked to a story ([link removed]) earlier this week about how former NFL player Michael Oher, who was the subject of the 2009 movie “The Blind Side,” claims the family who took him in swindled him of his share of profits from the movie. Oher alleges in court documents that he recently found out that the family he lived with — Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy — never adopted him. He says they tricked him by having him sign something that made them conservators and that allowed them to profit off the story.

An attorney for the Tuohys claimed Oher attempted a “shakedown” of the family. He said that despite all the Tuohys did for Oher when he was younger, “His response was to threaten them, including saying that he would plant a negative story about them in the press unless they paid him $15 million.”

Sean Tuohy told The Daily Memphian that Oher's allegations are not true.

“We didn't make any money off the movie," Tuohy said. “We were never offered money; we never asked for money. My money is well-documented; you can look up how much I sold my company for.”

Sandra Bullock won an Academy Award for best actress for playing Leigh Anne Tuohy in “The Blind Side.” Meanwhile, the actor who played Oher in the movie, Quinton Aaron, told The New York Post’s Marjorie Hernandez ([link removed]) , that it has all been a “sad and unfortunate turn of events.”

Aaron said, “I was shocked and completely caught off guard. Having met Michael and the Tuohys, I feel like this is a sad, unfortunate turn of events. I can say just from my personal experience from meeting with both parties, I have the utmost respect for all of them over the years.”

For a recap and explainer, here’s a good piece from ESPN’s Michael A. Fletcher: “FAQ: Sorting out the biggest claims in 'Blind Side' controversy.” ([link removed])

** Media tidbits
* The New York Times’ Jill Cowan with “How an L.A.-Based New York Times Reporter Covered the Maui Fires.” ([link removed])
* The Los Angeles Times’ Susanne Rust with “A reporter kept a diary of her plastic use. It was soul-crushing.” ([link removed])
* Eva Rodriguez has been named NPR’s vice president and executive editor. Rodriguez will oversee NPR’s global 200-plus-person newsgathering operation including reporters based internationally, across the country and in Washington, D.C. NPR says she will serve as the senior editorial leader for all of NPR’s platforms, news desks and beats, including desk editors, reporters, correspondents and associated production staff. Rodriguez joins NPR from The Fuller Project, a global nonprofit newsroom focusing on coverage of the interconnected issues affecting women. Rodriguez also has worked at The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
* The New York Times’ Reggie Ugwu with “They Review Movies on TikTok, but Don’t Call Them Critics.” ([link removed])
* My Poynter colleague Alex Mahadevan with “Associated Press cements the AI era with newsroom guidance.” ([link removed])
* And speaking of AI, NPR’s Bobby Allyn with “New York Times considers legal action against OpenAI as copyright tensions swirl.” ([link removed])
* Here are the 2023 Edward R. Murrow Award winners ([link removed]) .

** Hot type
* Powerful and disturbing story from CNN. Tamara Qiblawi, Allegra Goodwin, Nima Elbagir and Celine Alkhaldi with “Shot at while they drowned. Executed in the desert. Those who collected the bodies recount ‘one of the worst days’ in Darfur’s genocide-scarred history.” ([link removed])
* A fine example of superb and useful journalism. From CalMatters: “Tracking California Wildfires. Map of active wildfires burning across California. Explore the history of wildfires and their toll in acreage, property and lives.” ([link removed])
* It’s that time of year: The Little League World Series on ESPN — which, as I’ve written in the past, is a crummy and exploitative idea. Not the World Series, but airing it on national TV. Anyway, it has been more than 20 years since a team from New York used an overage pitcher who made national news. What happened to the team that was robbed of its chance to go to the World Series because it lost to that team? The Athletic’s Audrey Snyder writes about it in “Remember Danny Almonte? What about the team that got cheated out of trip to Williamsport?” ([link removed])

** More resources for journalists
* Tickets for Poynter’s Bowtie Ball ([link removed]) , honoring Anderson Cooper, go on sale Sept. 11, but you can get tickets before anyone else. Learn how. ([link removed])
* Poynter Leadership Academy for Women in Media ([link removed]) (Mar., May & Sept. 2024) — Apply by Sept. 8, 2023 ([link removed]) .
* Power of Diverse Voices: Writing Workshop for Journalists of Color ([link removed]) (Nov. 15-18) (Seminar) — Apply by Sept. 15 ([link removed]) .
* Will Work for Impact: Fundamentals of Investigative Journalism ([link removed]) (Oct. 2-30) (Online) — Enroll now ([link removed]) .

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at [email protected] (mailto:[email protected]) .
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