Why we should care
To the editor:
I’ve never lived in Marion County, but Bud and Marcella Bruce were my uncle and aunt, and they owned and operated the Hillsboro Star-Journal from 1954 to 1988. They loved Marion County.
I loved Uncle Bud and Aunt Marcella and, therefore, I loved Marion County. My plan was to major in journalism and move to Hillsboro to work for the Star-Journal. I even went to journalism camp at Texas Tech the summer before my senior year.
But although my father allowed me to go to J-camp, he was a traditionalist. Because I was a girl, he would not help me go to college unless I majored in teacher education. I couldn’t become a journalist and move to Marion County.
In 1999, my teacher career path landed me on the witness stand in federal court in Wichita Falls, Texas. For two hours, I testified as both a plaintiff and an expert witness against the City of Wichita Falls because they had passed a law to ban books in the public library. The First Amendment prevailed.
My “Google machine” knows that I’m passionate about the First Amendment, so when the Marion County Record was raided by the police, I opened my computer to find that Google had stunning news for me.
As soon as I picked myself up off the floor, I learned that both the Hillsboro Star-Journal and the Marion County Record were owned by Eric and Joan Meyer. I subscribed to the digital and paper copy of the Hillsboro Star-Journal, knowing it would print the same information the Record carried.
Then I emailed Mr. Meyer and told him that I was Bud and Marcella’s niece, was subscribing to the Hillsboro paper and stood in solidarity with the Marion County Record.
Next, I called an award-winning editor who now lives in our retirement community. I told her about the raid, and she immediately wrote a letter to our local paper advising our community about the dangers that Marion County was facing.
I started placing a classified ad each week in the HSJ, at first anonymously, and then signed.
I learned that the Kansas Press Association and the Society of Professional Journalists had set up legal funds, and I donated to both. When the latter began selling shirts in support of the paper, I bought one of those, too.
As a teacher, a professor emerita, and a historian who has been sickened by the events in Marion, I recently asked four acquaintances: “Tell me everything you know about why the founders included freedom of the press in the Bill of Rights. Then tell me why they included freedom from unreasonable search and seizure.”
They could answer only in vague generalities. No one could offer historical causality. Therefore, I have made it my mission to teach this mini-history lesson to people within my sphere of influence.
Freedom of the Press — The primary role of the Fourth Estate is to act as the citizenry’s watchdog on government.
Before our founders won independence, criticizing the government was a crime, so newspaper publishers could be arrested for speaking truth to power. They could be tied to a post and publicly whipped.
James Madison included freedom of the press in the First Amendment so the government could not silence publishers by arresting them.
Freedom from Unreasonable Search and Seizure — In colonial America, general writs of assistance originally allowed customs officers to search named persons, their homes, and businesses if the officers believed the persons were evading customs (import) tax.
Once issued, a writ was constantly in effect until six months after the king’s death, so the suspected tax evaders could be searched constantly.
Later, writs could be sold to any loyalist, and the purchaser could transfer the writ to any other person.
A loyalist who purchased a Writ could invade the home of his enemy without a reason. Every day. Multiple times a day. Until six months after the king died.
James Madison wrote the Fourth Amendment to protect citizens from having their persons, homes, and businesses searched, and their belongings seized, without due process.
Agents of the Marion government violated these sacred protections.
I am doing what little I can to support the Marion County Record. I think Aunt Marcella and Uncle Bud are looking down on me and saying, “You’re making us proud, kiddo.”
I also like to think that if Bud and Marcella were alive on August 11, 2023, and still owned the Hillsboro Star-Journal, they would have been among the first people to arrive at the Record as it was being searched.
I think Bud would have looked Mr. Meyer straight in the eye and said, “We’ll help you get the paper out, Eric. This atrocity will not stand.”
Millie Gore Lancaster
Hot Springs Village, Arkansas
Last modified Sept. 20, 2023