‘Where are all the good people?’

Sep 1, 2023

Joan Meyer couldn’t eat or sleep after the raid. A day later, she died in the home she had lived in since 1953.
John Galer

Owner, The Journal-News, Hillsboro, Illinois
Chair, National Newspaper Association

Many have followed the news of a police raid of a newspaper office and publisher’s home in Marion, Kansas, during the past week. A crescendo of news reporting has condemned the police raid as Gestapo tactics and an aggression against the First Amendment.

The raid conducted by the town’s police chief confiscated the computers at both home and office, as well as staffers’ cell phones. The purpose of the raid was to find evidence of supposed “identity theft and illegal use of computers.”

The events surround the decision for the raid developed after the paper was given information through social media about a restaurant owner’s driving record. The owner was seeking a liquor license for her restaurant and the information shared that she had a DUI (driving under the influence) charge in 2008, and had been driving without a license since.

The paper investigated the allegations through Kansas state websites, found them to be accurate, but decided not to run the story. The publisher did, however, give the information to the local police and the sheriff’s department.

The restaurant owner attended a city council meeting where the liquor license was on the agenda and accused the paper of illegally gaining information about her. The Record ran her comments from the meeting in their story on the city council meeting. Two days later the police raided the newspaper and publisher’s home and also the home of a council member.

The upheaval for the staff of the newspaper was almost incalculable. With computers and all files gone, getting out a paper was a monumental task. But with the help of some donated computers they were able to publish this last Wednesday. “Seized, Not Silenced” was the headline running across the front page.

The home of publisher Eric Meyer was searched, and two computers along with other electronic equipment were removed. Meyer lived with his 98-year-old mother, Joan. She, too, was publisher of the paper for nearly 40 years and still wrote a column, “Memories,” on past news and events of the Marion community.

She couldn’t eat or sleep after the raid. A day later, she died in the home she had lived in since 1953.

Her son believes the stress of the unprecedented Aug. 11 raid on her home and the newsroom was a contributing factor in her death.

“She just sat most of the evening, you know, and asked, ‘Where are all the good people? Where are all the good people and how come they haven’t done something about this? Why are they allowed to do this?’ ” Eric Meyer said in an interview with PBS. “So the last 24 hours of a 98-year-old woman’s life was devoted to pain and anguish and a feeling that all her life didn’t matter.”

At her funeral Saturday, the Rev. Ron DeVore said Meyer’s long life and career, both of which seemed to be led by a single mission statement, “Do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.”

“Where are all the good people?” The Rev. DeVore said of Meyer’s plea following the raids. “The answer was: ‘They’re on their way.’ You’re here today.” Before the service concluded. The Rev. DeVore offered a special message to those who loved and admired Meyer. “You can continue her legacy. You, too, can consider deeply. You can think long. You can reflect before you speak and before you write, and you, too, can do the right thing because it is the right thing to do.”

Journal-News owners John and Susie Galer attended the funeral for Joan Saturday in Marian, Kansas, as representatives of the NNA.

John Galer is the owner and publisher of The Journal-News in Hillsboro, Illinois. He serves as the chair of the National Newspaper Association.