A step too far…

Written by: Marvin Baker

Have you heard about this incident in Marion County, Kan? Apparently the police chief ordered a raid on the local newspaper the Marion County Record and seized computers, cell phones, a router and photographed the entire office.
When this story broke, the reason for the raid didn’t make any sense. The publisher was investigating a DUI. Newspaper editors do that all the time. That shouldn’t be cause for a raid.

But on Tuesday, the Kansas City Star reported the publisher was actually investigating the police chief, who abruptly left his job in Kansas City and was later hired as the chief of police in Marion County.
Meanwhile, the police chief stated his office conducted the raid because he believed an employee of the Marion County Record committed a computer crime.

Regardless, it appears to be intimidation by the police chief. In fact, the publisher said his mother, a part owner of the newspaper, died over the weekend because she was distraught about the raid.
As newspaper editors and reporters, we do this all the time. We don’t take any pleasure in it, but it is part of our job which is to inform the public.

What I think might have happened here is the city council, or county commission, I’m not sure at this point, hired the police chief without thoroughly looking into his background. Then, somehow the publisher received a tip about the police chief.
Again, this is my opinion, but it appears likely that the publisher was attempting to prove the coun-cil/commission made a mistake in hiring the police chief.

The only time I’ve ever heard of anything remotely close to this is about 30 years ago in New Hampshire, a weekly newspaper editor was shot dead on a street because of negative articles he had written about someone in that community.
Back in the days when I worked in Langdon, I often confided in Lynn Schroeder, the publisher of the Cavalier Chronicle about police and legal matters. He told me something one day that is quite simple, but makes a lot of sense.
“If you don’t want your name in the paper, don’t break the law.”

People get really angry in a small town when their name appears in the local newspaper for a crime or an arrest or conviction or something like that.

I’ve had a number of situations in my career in which I reported exactly what the publisher did in Marion County, and although the people were angry with me and the newspaper, nobody ever raided the place.

I’ve also had some death threats while I was working on a tribal election and it didn’t even have anything to do with my opinion writing. One candidate didn’t want the other to run ads in our paper and so he had some of his people try to intimidate me into pulling the opponent’s ads.

That didn’t happen. And there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in Tucson that I was going to bend because I wasn’t going to put my integrity in jeopardy.

Sure it was scary, but as a Soldier who has been in two separate hostile areas, I can tell you my training kicked in at that point… don’t take the same route every day, check under the car for explosives, make sure someone knows where you are at all times… be vigilant.

Looking back on all the negative articles I’ve written about politicians, prominent business people, athletes and even clergy in my 31-year career, if I had to do it all over again, I would do it exactly the same way because there were no assumptions, no opinions, no revenge, just facts as they emerged.

I was doing my job as a journalist should do their job, which is why I think the publisher of the Marion County Record should file the biggest lawsuit ever filed in rural Kansas because what happened was uncalled for and was purely meant to be intimidation.

And, in the most recent update, the police chief has agreed through the newspaper’s attorney to return all the seized items and has rescinded his search warrant. That is likely because of public backlash.

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