It's been nearly three months since the unprecedented law enforcement raid on the Marion County record newspaper. Since then, the town's police chief has resigned, and reporters have kept digging into the situation. Kansas reflect her editor Sherman Smith has retold the story of the raid with fresh reporting, including conversations with record editor and publisher Eric Meyer, both of them join me this week on the Kansas reflect your podcast. Welcome to you both.
Pleased to be here. Thank you.
So Eric, you are in town in Topeka today, accepting the Kansas Coalition for Open governments Above and Beyond Award. The Kansas Press Association was also having a luncheon where this all happened. You had the chance to give some remarks, kind of what was the what's the brief rundown of what you talked to folks about today?
Well, you know, the, and this is one of those themes that came up and all the acceptance speeches for these people were going into the Hall of Fame after I spoke about the decline in journalism and the decline in newspapers and all the rest of this. And I was hoping to try to be a little more upbeat, even though what happened us is hardly upbeat. But the response to it has been upbeat, the fact that we have received 10s of 1000s of messages nationwide, from people all across the political spectrum, telling us that they support the idea of a fourth estate of journalism, holding people accountable of asking questions of not being clamped down by government. The fact that it's come from right wing from left wing, it's come from everybody. And it's even come from things about places that I've been asked. I was I was in Boston this weekend. And I was recognized on the flight twice, once from somebody who was from Wichita, so I understand it. But once I was sitting at Logan field in Boston, and somebody came up, you're that editor from Kansas, aren't you? And I said, Yeah, I am. And totally while I was there, but people are people are recognizing that this is an issue. And they're recognizing that we've gotten to a point where a lot of government seems to be very, very reluctant to share any information, to try to penalize people who obtain information, to show them that they are the boss, and you shouldn't listen to it. And everything you do is negative and fake news and whatever else. And they're confusing us with all the crap that's on Facebook and every other place as well. But the fact that we're getting such a response back from it, we started out Marion is the 100 and 22nd largest city in Kansas. Marion County, I believe is the 57th largest county in Kansas. As of now, because of gift subscriptions that people have ordered to our paper to support us. We are the eighth largest circulation newspaper in Kansas, which is pretty amazing. It also means a lot of money for the Postal Service and our printer and other things. But it has just been a tremendous outpouring, the and from all over the spectrum. As I said, I was looking through notes and I saw one and it says, you know, oh, those people who did this to you, they must all be Democrats. And literally the next note, I went to all those people who did that to you, they must all be Republicans. It's it's been an amazing journey and an amazing amount of support. It's an amazing amount of work keeping up with all this stuff. But yeah, it was it has been so it has been very heartening to see the reaction. And I think that one of the things that was on our recordings of the of the raid was my mother, who died the next day was talking about you're making international headlines by doing this, you Hitler people, other things that she called them. And they laughed at her and they thought, you know, what do you mean international headlines? Well, it was and and I don't think they realize that there would be that kind of reaction. I mean, to be honest with you guys, you guys been there early helped with that. And it got out to other media outlets and and that outpouring from other media outlets was good. I think the the powers that be say, well, that's just because you have connections with all the people in the media. Well, you know, I I would love to know all these people in the media. I know, but I don't it's just been it's just been a fabulous experience.
This response has been really encouraging to me and it feels like a sort of watershed moment for for journalism, and at least in Kansas, but I think it's also a reflection of what we have in Kansas we have a a really strong tradition of powerful, impactful local Journal. was, um, we have a very strong Press Association, which I think recognized immediately what was happening here and the severity of it, put out the alert to all the members, which caused us to drop what we were doing that day and focus our attention on this. And then I think having, you know, some, some First Amendment attorneys who could provide immediate context allowed us to set the, I think, a clear narrative from the start that this was about an abuse of power in a legal raid, a crime that wasn't actually a crime. And I think that was part of the narrative from the start. And
I will also say that I think that that the video of my mother objecting to it was was something that made it possible to have put a human face. I mean, we reporters always talked about the need to put a human face on a story. And this was the human face on a story that otherwise didn't really have a fairly clear human face. And certainly not mine is not that interesting to look at. But but her the fact of having seven cops in this 98 year old woman's living room, demanding a computer that she probably had never touched in three months, but I had used and that she just understood, because she'd worked in the business for 60 years that this just wasn't right. And we're now seeing fallout from that, that we're seeing officers who were involved in the raid have resigned. They're working for other jurisdictions now. I think we're up to four of them that have quit so far. It's it was a an attempt to go too far as I told her actually that right before she died. So typically, the way bullies bullies come down, is they go one step too far. They, you know, they, okay, they give them the seal of milk money every day. They get by with that, because nobody's gonna object to it. But they cross a line at some point. And people say, No, this just isn't right anymore. And I think that's what happened here.
So Eric, I wonder, you know, Sherman was talking about when we got the email from Emily and kind of the reflector staff kind of sprang into action on this side. And I just remember when I was writing about it that evening, as a column I would just was just talking to Sherman was just like, Am I missing something here? Like, this just seems so outrageous, so beyond the kid? Like, is there any when you were in it, when you were there on that, that Friday day? Did? Did it strike you that way as well, just like it was over something completely stupid? Yeah, you will, but that you could barely believe that something like this was actually transpiring.
I thought that we had judges who blocked things like this, we had prosecutors who I mean, there's always a potential, you're going to have one rogue somebody either in a system. But to get it all the way through a system that's supposed to have safeguards within it is supposed to have the judge you're supposed to have the county attorney, they're supposed to have the police chief, although the police chief was the rogue in this case, supposed to have the mayor supposed to have the city council, you're supposed to have all these other people that are that are going to get one person who has a weird idea and persuade them that they shouldn't have a weird idea. Instead, it's and prior to this, the greatest claim to fame, Marian probably had unfortunately, wasn't one of the Oklahoma City bombers lived there. And one of the stories I did at the time when I was working at the Milwaukee Journal was about computer bulletin board systems. I mean, this goes back before the internet. But he was a guy who hung out on bulletin board systems and all we heard was the echo chamber of the bulletin board, and how dangerous it is to have people get into those cocooned environments, those echo chamber environments, and they don't hear that, no, you're gonna blow up little kids at a daycare center, you're gonna but you know, you don't want to do this. This is stupid. And you would think that in civil society, that you would have those sorts of protections sort of safeguards, and they didn't. On the other hand, this is the most predictable thing in the world. I was mentioning to to max couch, the KPS Legal Affairs consultant to who helps newspapers in crisis like this and who was the first person I called? I said, as Maxwell knows, this has been building. We were a regular caller to him. I mean, we were probably calling him more often than anybody else. Because of they kept closing meetings, they kept refusing to give documents they kept, you know, accusing us of lying with everything we did. And when it wasn't true that it was lying of trying to put things over on voters, you should we should have seen it coming. We should have seen that there was this, this building sense of pressure coming and that's part of why I say we don't know everything yet about this, because we haven't connected those dots yet. But I'm saying I think the connections are there.
So Sherman, this podcast is going to be coming out along with a big story that you've put together, which is trying to pull together some strands that haven't all been put together in one story yet. What are some of the things that you've been working on and talking with folks about in connection to this in connection to like, why there? Nobody said no, or, you know, where the safeguards were, I
think one of the things that perhaps wasn't really clear at the time and, and probably because they were lying about it, or at least downplaying their involvement in it was that, you know, this didn't happen in isolation, where one rogue police chief runs off and does something off the rails. You know, we now know from records requests that we've filed that other people have filed other records that we've gathered, that the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Revenue, the fire marshal's office, the County Sheriff's Office, the county attorney, and of course, the judge who signed the warrants, were all aware that this raid was imminent or participated in the raid, or at least had knowledge in some cases participated in the investigation leading up to the red. And so, you know, as Eric was saying, it's concerning to me that nobody anywhere at any of these agencies at a local level or a state level said, this is a bad idea. We shouldn't do this, like the, you know, the idea that this was a crime that a reporter using an online database to get a a a public record that anybody right now can grant can log on to and get that that would be identity theft was the supposed crime. It's a farce on its surface. And nobody questioned that, that we know of, nobody said, you know, there's a federal law that explicitly prohibits the kind of search warrant we are about to execute on media, you know, we have to go get a subpoena kind of basic training you would expect for law enforcement, nobody at a state or local level, said, Wait a second, what we're going to do might not be legal, we shouldn't do this. Nobody questioned it anywhere that we know of. There was
an immediate suspicion. One of the things that people forget is that Ruth herbal, the vice mayor who got a copy of this document, and we got a copy of the document from the same person paying moment, we didn't reveal that at the time because she was a source, but she's admitted it. We got it on a Wednesday. We verified it on a Friday. On a Monday, we had sent a note to the police chief telling them all about this and so and Ruth herbal had sent one to the city administrator telling them about it. So as of that date on Monday, they knew that Ruth herbal had sent the document to I am sorry that Pam mog had sent the document to Ruth herbal, and they knew it was Pam, they knew that we had received a document from a source which well wouldn't take a lot of brain work figured out. It's probably worth herbal, and none of us okay, but we verified it was it was Pam mom, and that we had attempted to verify that and had done so and notified them on Friday. Then they called the Department of Revenue and said Did somebody access the records? And they said, Yes. Phyllis Zorn, one of our reporters access them on Friday. That's a key point. At that point, they should have said, Oh, we should take Eric Meyer up on the offer. That was the last sentence of his pair of a note to us that if we didn't think there was anything needs to be done with this. But if you do, contact us, and they recall, it contacted us. The immediate reaction was he's lying. Here, they decided we were lying. They decided that we had stolen they ignored the fact that it was August 4 Instead of August 2. And they immediately started figuring out now he's lying. And we can hold him culpable under these laws, because he's an accessory after the fact. He's a he didn't exercise proper supervision. They were very specifically targeting me. And the fact that the mayor on the same day is telling the restaurant owner whose record was accessed, that the only way he could get rid of the vice mayor, which he's tried to get rid of before through recall another means was if she were convicted of a crime, that he said this right in the middle of that discussion. It's kind of interesting that those are the two people that they went after in their warrant. And you're absolutely right. I've looked at the same documents and some others as well. It is abundantly clear that the county attorney knew about this. Now he says he didn't read these didn't read all the notes.
Yeah, as county attorneys generally do before they sign off on a search warrant that
they didn't rate us on Thursday. They were they were planning to rate us on Thursday because he wasn't in the office to approve of it. Yet on Friday. He says he didn't really approve of it. Well, then why didn't they just go ahead on Thursday. I mean, this stuff doesn't accents. And
for clarity, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation agents over this case sent the email to police saying have you executed this yet? Yes, they executed
this on Thursday on my house. That was the one that I really wanted to know about was my house, not the newspaper, but my house. And the fact that the judge not only signed the order, but she notarized it, even though the police chief says he never presented it directly to her well, to notarize, something, you have to be there and witness the signature. I am headed over after we do this podcast over the judicial commission, because supposedly a complaint against her was discussed today. Now, they won't tell us anything about that, but I'm gonna go stand in their office and see if physically being there will make them a little more likely to tell us something or at least if I can fill out a Freedom of Information Act or in Kansas and open records act report, request to be able to get whatever documentation they have. It's
an interesting note with her xe say that this, you know, appears to be they were targeting you and counsel them and that they didn't like the judge signed the search warrants for you and your newsroom and the council woman. They also presented a search warrant for the source pan mag that she did not sign. Yeah. And
we don't know why. I mean, getting these these probable cause affidavits, was surprising anyway, because the first thing we did after we were raided was go to the district court office and ask for the probable cause affidavits. And we got a signed statement from them, saying that they were not in their office. So they'd gone someplace else. I don't know where they went. And whether they were changed. After the fact we don't know, we know that the inventory of items seized was changed after they gave it to us. We know that one of the officers descriptions of what went on in the search was written considerably after the search, not contemporaneous with the search, and that he attempted to spin things a certain way in that, in that report that would make it look different than it was. So it just looks it looks corrupt, is what it looks like. And it goes back. well beyond that. As I said, we should have known this coming. Because this is the dispute between the mayor and vice mayor has been going on since there was a charter ordinance that was rejected, that the city council tried to put through a charter ordinance that said, Oh, well, we can borrow money on capital improvement plans. And we don't have to have an engineer verify that it belongs in the capital improvement. We can do that. And we'll make all of our streets better. Isn't that great? Section two, which they excluded when they published this notice in the city newsletter says oh, by the way, we don't have to have elections anymore. On bond issues. We don't even will even have to pass it by an ordinance. We can by simple resolution, and it doesn't have to be published incur this debt. Well, who drafted the ordinance? The bond company, the same exact drafting that they'd gotten through in several other cities that never found this out. And they were trying to put it through in our city to so they get more business apparently. Well, Ruth Herbold, the Vice Mayor found out about this as opposed to it. We agreed with that editorially and it got to a past she passed a petition got to an election, people voted nine to one to reject it. It was just scant weeks after that, that the mayor started a recall effort against Ruth herbal, which never got around, never got enough signatures. And the grounds were the two grounds of misconduct in office by sharing by sharing the con the contents of what was discussed in a secret session with us, me personally, which by the way, isn't illegal, right. And the other one was that she violated the Open Meetings Act by the city city administrator and sent a note saying I posted the new packet on the website and she sent a note that said thanks. But she instead of replying just to him hit reply also she replied to all the council members Well, technically yes, it probably is a violation of the Open Meetings Act but it's not it didn't have anything to do with transactions that he business so it wouldn't have been anything. She they there's not very many signatures required on those they apparently didn't get them. They they they let the deadline pass and there was no recall and then it was too close to election to have a recall. So ever since then there's been nothing but an endless since the start of that the mayor posting on his social media sites about us and her lying about any I mean the end. It's typically if you have 1000 Words of something and word 579 has a typo in it, then the whole thing becomes a lie, you know, and it was that type of fake news allegations which we've heard up from other politicians before. But we won't say who know,
but it's, you know, it's it's interesting, Eric, just to hear you talk about it, because you know, it's almost like you have these these two levels, you have the, the town politics, which are, you know, a little bit vicious and very personal. Although not that you would necessarily see it that way. But then you have this kind of the, the more state level, the county level stuff that's going on, and it's almost as if, once that search, those search warrants were executed, in August, a lot of people on these levels realized, oh, this, this had crossed a line and you have a kind of a scurry, you know, the rats are fleeing the sinking ship. At that point, there's a lot of attempts to say we had nothing to do with this. We knew nothing about this. And in a way, that's that, frankly, strange credulity.
You know, the Department of Revenue tells police that they have a there must be a vulnerability in their website, this isn't a public record, gives police credence to treat it as a crime. There are emails I have now among Department of Revenue employees talking about this as though it were a crime. They're glad the KBI is involved. It's a law enforcement matter. But then days after the raid, they issued a statement saying this is a public record, and anybody can access it. Well,
one of the things was I think the people that the police talked to were like IT support people. Yeah, they're all They're not policy people. They were they were like the the computer wanks. And and then they eventually talked to the policy people,
we see this that other agencies to or the KBI puts out a statements saying, you know, emphasizing our agent wasn't there when the the warrants were served, ignoring the fact that they had copies of all the warrants in advance.
The first things we heard that we heard back from Tony MythTV, the KBI director, who we think is a pretty good guy, I mean, was that the KBI wasn't at all involved in this. But we now know that there was an agent and a supervisory agent and others who were involved in this as it went on. A lot of this really locally, is is understandable. Sort of sociological, I mean, I hate to sound. I'm a retired college professor. So I'm going to sound like a retired college professor here. But one of the things has happened to all the little towns in Kansas is that there's been a flight out of the town's population drained and particularly the, the the best and the brightest, in some cases have left part of it's because they want to leave little towns partners, because corporatization there's there's no local food store or clothing store or, you know, you can't buy a TV set in Marion, Kansas, you can't buy a pair of shoes in Marion, Kansas, you can't buy a piece of furniture and Marion, Kansas, and those used to be stores that an ambitious local person would run. Now an ambitious local person could look to be the manager of a story that runs that which is not really the same level of of economic success. So they've moved. This has happened all over most of Kansas, most of the rural areas, same plight that happened to the central cities. The the higher level class identity, I don't mean this in a in a value sense. But the people who are more educated or more ambitious, and more entrepreneurial in their work have left, which leaves the rest of the people, which also leaves a terrible leadership vacuum. And when there's a leadership vacuum, somebody steps into it. And it may not be the people you want to have step into it. I mean, this is the history of, you know, how Vladimir Putin and Adolf Hitler and everybody else in the world has come to power is that there was some sort of a vacuum, there's some sort of a sense of populist, the world's going to hell in a handbasket, and somebody's got to step in and do something about it. And let's blame somebody. So in World War Two, we blame the Jews and now we're blaming the media. We blame black people we blamed there's a lot of different people or they're on college campuses. Now we're blaming Jewish students for whatever. And I think that the the idea of this populist sense of blaming the lack of leadership, the fact that people there's been a quote unquote, brain drain, not that there aren't bright people who have been left behind, but they've become more and more cautious, more and more afraid. We don't get many comments to this day from people inside the town. We get it from people who live a mile out of town, that's fine. But if you live in town, and there are no locally owned service stations, so I'm fair to use this as an analogy, but if you own a service station in their town and you go against the mayor, your business is going to drop off. And they know that. And so they're very cautious about what they say, it has happened in the past, that people have lost business there is a candidate for for mayor that was actually the opposing candidate to this to the person who won and lost by a very small margin. But he started a business after that, and many somebody said, we want to run for city council, I'm not going to do that it will hurt my business, to be a public official will hurt my business. So I'm not going to get involved. And that I'm not going to get involved is a huge danger to democracy, because it means that there will be somebody somewhere who gets involved. Well,
and you know, the same folks in town, you know, you mentioned the folks leaving, and the people who remain, I think they've also seen that, right? That's part of the sense of this is that it's the abandonment of we're the ones who stayed, everyone else has left. No one is in our corner. And that allows really bad actors sometimes to and
this is lay on that this is in an area and one of the speakers today at the KPA function said, I can't believe this of Kansas. This is the Kansas that had Dwight Eisenhower and Nancy Kassebaum, both of whom are now the impossibly known moderate republican species, which personally I am. Nancy actually lives in our circulation area, and Dwight Eisenhower came from just a county north and used to play ball in Marion. So I mean, this is an area of Kansas, that is not your typical, redder than red area. This has always been a sort of moderate republican area that occasionally will vote for a Democrat that if they're okay. And by their standards, it's not a complete, Radical Republican environment. Yet, in recent years that has become that we've elected for that we're now gerrymandered not only we gerrymandered into the first congrat into the second congressional district. So Douglas County will be in the first. But we are split between two legislative districts and the two legislators are. Well, one of them was the one of the guys who tried to get evolution banned from high school curricula. The other one is more conservative yet.
So, so taking so taking a little bit of a step back now, so we're about nearly three months removed now from the raid. But what should What do you both Eric and Sherman think we should be paying attention to as we move forward? Not just in Marion and in Kansas, but but kind of elsewhere? Question I know, you know, I
think this demonstrates the the value of having strong local journalism, which is a a challenge in a lot of communities in Kansas, particularly where we have some some corporate owned entities that maybe aren't particularly invested in the quality of that journalism. But we know from what what happened in Marion, that's people across political spectrums value that that local journalism, people nationally were shocked when they saw some of the people we were talking to in Marion who were wearing Magga hats and buying a subscription and adamant that nobody should touch their damn paper. You know, this is something that communities need and once and I think it's a real challenge for our society to figure out how do we how do we get more more reporters into places like Marion and how do we get, you know more Eric Myers and other communities?
I think that there's there's a lot to be said about encouraging that democracy means not just listening to other people. But speaking, that means speaking out and not being afraid to speak out, and that you need to create an environment in which people don't feel afraid to speak out. They don't think that they're going to be, you know, accused of being dumb or being out of step or being unpopular. You know, some of the greatest things in the world have happened because people have changed their minds from what the most prevailing popular patient is. You know, if we were if we were to just go with what was popular, we would never have had Brown versus Board of Education, we would have never had and although it's been overturned Roe v. Wade, we would have never had same sex marriages, we would never have had, you know, there's a lot of things that people have changed their minds on society has changed their minds on because people have been willing to speak up. And the notion that we've seized power, you know, There's a there's a conspiracy going on you and we talked about this judge and why she did what she did well, but she's brand new appointed judge who appointed her. Well, Cannes, Marion County is one of these places that has nonpartisan appointment of judges, you have a judicial selection panel, who represents the average citizens of Marion County? Well, it's a guy who is an ultra, ultra, ultra conservative, who speaks at a group that, among other things, was talking about how diet pepsi has dead babies in it. And he talks about rights. And he's the representative on the judicial panel, where you can see what's going on, they want to control the lower levels of the judiciary. And this is largely for anti abortion reasons. And I understand that that's their strategy. But the rest of the people are just letting it go on. Just like the Republican Party is letting some people go on the House Speaker race is a perfect example of that seven people controlled who that the Speaker of the House was going to be this idea that the people who speak loudest are the only ones that are heard and democracy is one of the things that has to go. And I think if that goes then we don't have nearly the same degree of added atmosphere that results in police raids like this, we also need to convince people, the younger people who are in journalism, and I say this, again, as a college, former college professor, retired, as that I couldn't convince any of my kids to go to work at a small town newspaper, they all wanted to work in New York. And in fact, some of them would say, I can't work in newspapers or journalism, I want to work in public relations where I can tell the truth. Can that just sits like a lead weight on my chest when I say that, that they think that journalists are all liars? Well, there are some and they're not really journalists. I mean, these people who are on in the evening on cable TV, whatever they call themselves, they tend to call themselves journalists. I've always thought, you know, John Oliver says he's not a journalist. Yeah, he's much closer to being a journalist. And most of these people are. They aren't underscores. And it becomes this, the model that they see is whoever screams the loudest wins today. And
it underscores the value of questioning everything that these people in a position of power are telling us, especially since we know now that some of them were less than truthful, and the value of having access to records to know, what are the facts here? You
know, we didn't we didn't have a revolutionary war to have New Monarchs. And that's the way we're treating some of these people, is if they are monarchs, that they are infallible monarchs that we just, we worship them because they're there in office. And that they've got to be right. They know the inside information. Well, they probably don't. There's a rise of a whole class of people that are sort of feeding off the government bodies. And, you know, the League of Municipalities, the League of counties, the bond Council, people that all these other people that make lots of money, advising all these local municipalities what to do, and they're really controlling things. Now.
You know, there's an irony here, and that one of the records I have is the councilmembers collets, after the raid, when the the scrutiny had intensified, just tremendously. He asked the League of Kansas municipalities for guidance, like you have to help us out here. And there's some internal communication that was sort of like, do we really want to get involved with this. And the response ultimately was, here are two firms that deal in crisis management you can talk to and here's a link to a YouTube seminar. Good luck in the YouTube seminar.
If you actually listen to the YouTube seminar, which I did is basically how to lie with reporters and get away with it. You can make them you can divert reporters with flashy stuff over here and they won't pay any attention to it as long as you give them a nice quote, which is always what PR people are taught. I mean, this goes back to two. Oh, you want to go back into history when the when after went on strike and Walter Cronkite walked off the CBS Evening News and a guy came on by the name of Arnold Zenker. And so they had there was a producer of the CBS Evening News with Arnold Zenker. And Arnold's inker did a fine job. But then he went off and became an anchorman in Boston, and then he went to be a pm PR person, and he was most known for coming up with the slogan during the 1970s when there was an or Arab oil embargo, and they were considering nationalizing the petroleum industry. If you liked the nationalized postal service, you'll love nationalized oil. Well, it's classic ad hominem fallacy of logic, but it's the type of soundbite that works great on one of those college one of those TV shows in the mornings. shows and gets the second paragraph of every reporter story. And that's what they are advising you to do. Now, if you really want to study PR, I used to show this to students when I come in, and we have all these ethics books, and there is this little tiny book called Public Relations ethics. And I bring that out. And one of the first things that would say in it is always be open and always tell the truth. I mean, this is the lesson of extra strength Tylenol, which everybody said was going to be killed by attaining standard, but they went out and they were proactive, they told everything, they didn't hide anything. They were making themselves available. If the city of Marion had done that, and they might have gotten out of this.
By contrast, you've made yourself available? Well, I
read the book. No, I mean, that's the whole point we've tried to make is, is we don't have anything to hide, I have talked to actually, we've never even talked about this many roads and I are lawyer. I have said, I'm going to say what I think and I'm going to tell the truth. And you can figure out all the strategies in court, and you can tell the truth, you can talk to anybody you want to and I'm going to talk to anybody you want to. And nobody said anything other than that. We've never, we've never, you know, can I say this? Is it okay to say this, I won't operate that way. Just like I'm when we go down to the end of this lawsuit, there's going to be no non disclosure agreements, there's going to be no, you know, secret settlements, somewhere, there can't be the point of this is not to win the money. At the end of the suit. The point of this is to set a precedent so that these newspapers that exist, and you were you were kind to them earlier, when you said talked about corporate ownership, got it these papers, they have they have they've taken them over to buy their buildings and sell their buildings, because they have great real estate for sell their press and resell their brass cellar, press, sell their buildings, lay off everybody. And then don't make waves, you know, just publish what the Chamber of Commerce says is the news. And that's fine. Well, if you do that, you have no advantage over a Facebook or in Kansas, that's basically I can stop there, because most of Kansas isn't into Instagram, or Tiktok, or anything else. But you you're then they're free. And they're stealing from you in different ways, the people who own those companies, but, and they shouldn't be allowed to. But that's another story for another time. But you don't have any advantage. The advantage that we have, and this is what we were trying this is what I wanted to do in retirement was to say, I've been saying this in college for 26 years, that if we just go back to practicing good journalism, now, maybe the audience won't be as huge as it ever was. But there's still a way to make money at it enough to support your product enough to support what you're doing. If you practice good journalism, first and foremost, no gimmicks, no bells, no whistles, you know, get the facts first. And and then worry about all the other things about, you know, don't spend your money on search engine optimization, spend it on content that they're going to be optimizing for their search engine. And, and people will want it, particularly when it's becoming harder and harder to separate out truth from fake in social media. And I'm sorry, meta algorithms aren't going to do it. It's a human process. And there has to be editors there. And if meta when the rest of them x and whatever else had to be responsible for the content that they post to a news organization does. People don't understand this. If you come to me and say, the mayor picks the wings off butterflies, and I print it, I have to be able to prove that what you said was true. Facebook doesn't. Twitter doesn't. And if you put past law saying that they did, they would be out of business. They'd be out of business within within a minute or two. And the newspaper business would come back the challenge to the newspaper business is not new media. The challenge in rural area now, I take that back when we're talking about metropolitan areas, it's different, but in communities that are still actually communities. It's the advertising bases gone, the local locally owned advertisers are gone. Everything's a chain and chains don't deal with local ownership in the metro areas. It depends on whether they're cohesive metro area. Really, I don't know Kansas City enough because I haven't been around it but I know Chicago well enough that the only thing that anybody should Cago cares about is whether the quarterback for the bears sucks. And he does almost always. So they care about that. And aside from that, there's not much else that draws them together. So there isn't any coverage of news that's that significant to them. But in a local community, it is still. And within a suburban community, it still is, if the people are tied to that community. The metrics say that newspaper readership is most clearly associated with the length of time a person has lived in a current residence, not whether they own it or rent it, not what their ages control for all those things, the length of time you've lived in the current place. So the more more mobile society is, the harder it is for journalism to take hold, because people don't care that much about where they live. And I will admit this when I lived in Champaign, Illinois, I didn't care about anything you sent my individual community, my individual neighborhood of champagne, what happens in the rest of champagne, I don't care. I didn't really live there. I really kind of still live vicariously and Marian Kansas, I vicariously lived in P Waukee, Wisconsin. And where I lived before that. And so you know, I cared about follow the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas Jayhawks living in Illinois. And that kind of breakup makes it hard for media to find things to, to focus on. And that's the challenge. But when they do something stupid like this, and Marian, that actually gives us something to focus on. So we have something to to focus on, we have the idea of let's see what we can do to make this place a better place. Because nobody in Marion, me included, once this kind of publicity for Marion, Kansas, I mean, we've become the laughingstock of the free world, really. In terms of we've got these Keystone Cops and the judge who doesn't know anything and had drunk driving arrests and and prosecutors, you can't take time to read stuff and and city council members who don't answer questions. They put out a budget, that they don't even know what's in the budget. Council members don't know. And there was a series of questions that a meeting that revealed that they didn't know. And you think, oh my god, we'd be embarrassed about this? No, not so much. That's just the way it is. And that needs to change. And we've got an election coming up Tuesday. I have no idea what's going to happen in this election. The the all the candidates had to file before this happened. The vice mayor is on the ballot. The mayor then a new mayor will be elected, but he's unopposed. Another council member is for an unexpired term. He's unopposed. So there's three people going for two seats. One of them is Ruth herbal, the Vice Mayor. She's got to put two people in opposition to her. She's either gonna lead the ballot, beating everybody on it, or she's gonna get ousted. And I don't know which it's gonna be. And that's odd for an election. I don't really know people aren't talking.
Like, like a lot of parts of things connected to this story. It's still happening. It's still unfolding. So Eric Meyer of the Marion County record, Sherman Smith. Thanks so much for being on the podcast today. Thank you. Thank you.