News Take: Free Press Focus: How Do We Ensure Protections for the Press After Shocking Police Raid?

Guests: Eric Meyer, Publisher, Marion County Record and Gabe Rottman, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP)

“The legal protections that were there should have been adequate to prevent this. This is a case of government overreach. And in some cases, as much as I would like to say this is a First Amendment issue, it’s a Fourth Amendment issue. There really wasn’t a point to any of these searches.”

–  Eric Meyer, Marion County Record

“It’s really important that Congress finally step into that breach and pass a federal law that provides certainty across the country at a federal level on the scope of a reporter’s privilege and how it works.”

–  Gabe Rottman, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

In August 2023, the Marion County Record, a small local newspaper in Marion, Kansas, drew national headlines when it was the target of a police raid that has been harshly criticized as an attack on the free press. In the raid, Marion County police, without just cause, seized newsroom equipment and documents from the newspaper’s office and the homes of Publisher Eric Meyer and his mother, Co-Owner Joan Meyer. In this episode of News Take: Free Press Focus, a subseries of the News Take podcast, Eric Meyer shares the story of that fateful day and the events leading up to it and why it was preventable, and Gabe Rottman, a senior attorney at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP), talks to us about the dire implications for a free press when journalists’ rights are violated and the importance of a federal shield law, such as the PRESS Act, that would protect journalists’ confidential sources.

 

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Speaker bios:

Eric Meyer is the owner of the Marion County Record in Kansas. Eric “retired” in 2021 after a career as a journalism professor at Illinois, an editor at the Milwaukee Journal, and online publisher of American Journalism Review, to become editor and publisher of his hometown weekly, the Marion County Record, which he joined his parents in purchasing in 1998 to prevent it from becoming chain-owned. He wanted to demonstrate in retirement that commitment to high-quality journalism in both news and advertising could increase circulation and ad revenue despite the challenges the industry faces. It did, but his paper’s aggressive stance led to an illegal police raid on August 11, 2023, on the paper’s newsroom and the home he shared with his 98-year-old mother, Joan, who died of stress from the raid the next day.

Gabe Rottman is a senior attorney at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP), where he directs the Technology and Press Freedom Project, a six-year-old initiative that combines legal work, policy advocacy, and public education to address emerging challenges and opportunities at the intersection of technology and press freedom. He previously served in various roles at PEN America, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and the American Civil Liberties Union. Gabe is a frequent commentator on technology and civil liberties issues, including on the Protect Reporters from Exploitive State Spying (PRESS) Act which RCFP has endorsed.

 

Related links:

Statement: News/Media Alliance Applauds Passage of PRESS Act in House

Media Letter in Support of PRESS Act

Three Reasons Why a Small-Town Newspaper Raid is No Small-Fry Matter

Marion County Record

 

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Send your suggestions for future News Take guests to Senior Counsel & Director of Public Policy, Charlotte McBirney, at charlotte@newsmediaalliance.org.

News Take Production Team:

Host and Executive Producer: Charlotte McBirney, Senior Counsel & Director of Public Policy, News/Media Alliance

Production Support, Editing & Distribution:

Georgi-Ann Clarke, Social Media & Content Manager, News/Media Alliance
Lindsey Loving, Director, Communications, News/Media Alliance

Audio & Video Engineer: Current Media Group

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