After Kansas Reflector reported on the ignominious and unconstitutional raid of the Marion County Record on Aug. 11, news outlets and commentators from across Kansas and the nation followed suit throughout the weekend. The voices of those who value a free press and free expression were overwhelming in their force and intensity.

Eight days later, with the Record's equipment returned and reporters digging into circumstances surrounding the raid, it can be tempting to think that justice has been done. Time to pack up, nothing more to see here. Freedom has won, and we can all sail into the sunset.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

We still need answers and consequences in the case itself. More broadly, the egregious overreach in Marion and the good faith of journalists at the Record made this a perfect national story. Few would think that authorities got this one right. The problem - as journalists across the States Newsroom network told us - is that attacks on a free and fair press are not rare at all. Indeed, such attacks have become distressingly commonplace.

When powerful people go after journalists and news outlets, they go after everyone. They go after publications' readers. They go after voters who use information reported to make decisions. They go after other politicians who may have opposing messages or interests.

Ultimately, they go against the constitutional order of this country, which guarantees First Amendment rights to everyone.

Or as national president of the Society of Professional Journalists Claire Regan said: "By all accounts, the raid was an egregious attack on freedom of the press, the First Amendment and all the liberties we hold dear as journalists in this great country."

Make no mistake: Popular speech seldom requires government protection. Officials in Russia don't worry about cute cat calendars or a lifestyle magazine promoting Vladimir Putin as the sexiest man alive. Speech that many would consider offensive or outrageous or simply impolite would be easy to shut down without the protections inscribed in our founding documents.

Aggressive journalism and pointed commentary doesn't always feel good. It's not supposed to. Those who would shut it down might claim they're trying to restore civic peace or look out for the common welfare. Ultimately, however, they are harming the Constitution and country they claim to love.

Let's look at outrages big and small from across the United States. Editors from other States Newsroom outlets sent their own accounts, columns they ran and links to other stories. Follow along, in easy alphabetical order.


Arizona Mirror editor Jim Small highlights two stories, the first from him, the second from the Associated Press:

From 2016: "House Republican leaders defended their decision this week to revoke the credentials of the dedicated Capitol reporters by saying the new policy requiring background checks of the Fourth Estate, which allow them to access the press tables they've sat at on the House floor since at least the 1970s, is merely about ensuring the safety of the chamber's 60 elected officials."

From May 2023: "A judge dismissed Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers' restraining order against a reporter Wednesday, saying that the investigative journalist's conduct did not rise to the level of harassment.

" 'I don't think there is a series of events directed at Sen. Rogers that would cause a reasonable person to be seriously alarmed, annoyed or harassed even if she in fact was,' Judge Howard Grodman said after a hearing in Flagstaff Justice Court. 'The strongest point is investigative reporting is a legitimate purpose. lt just is.' "


Arkansas Advocate editor Sonny Albarado wrote a column on the subject last week:

In Arkansas, the state Department of Education's sudden decision to remove an Advanced Placement course from its approved list for graduation credit sent a not-so-subtle and insidious message to educators and students alike regarding freedom of thought and speech.

The AP African American Studies course had been under ADE scrutiny since Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders ordered the agency to scour curricula and other educational material for evidence of "indoctrination" and "critical race theory." Her signature legislation the LEARNS Act contains a section describing what is meant and what isn't meant by the vague terms. Read it and see if you don't think it's still vague.


Georgia Record editor John McCosh highlights the jailing of a reporter seven years ago:

From July 2016: "Mark Thomason was arrested, handcuffed, put in the back of a police cruiser, booked, had his mugshot taken, was strip searched, made to pee in a cup in front of male witnesses, made to shower with other inmates and spent 24 hours in a jail cell.

"His crime?

"According to the rural north Georgia journalist, he simply made open records requests that made people in powerful positions angry."

From November 2016: "All charges were dropped against Mark Thomason and his attorney, Russell Stookey, who was jailed on that fateful day. Thomason's open record requests were granted."


Iowa Capital Dispatch editor Kathie Obradovich writes:

In Iowa, a reporter from the Des Moines Register was pepper-sprayed and arrested by Des Moines police during a May 2020 protest of George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police. Although Andrea Sahouri identified herself as a reporter who was covering the protest, she was put on trial for failure to disperse and interference with official acts. A jury acquitted her in 2021.

Other attacks on press freedom have come in the form of violations of the open records act and new restrictions in media access to state and local government. The Republican-controlled Iowa Senate permanently removed media from press seating on the chamber floor in 2022 after more than a century. A group of journalists and open-records advocates, including Iowa Capital Dispatch, sued Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds and members of her staff for violations of the open-records law, including failing to respond to requests for public records for as long as 18 months. The suit was settled earlier this year after the Iowa Supreme Court affirmed that the governor's office was subject to the law and that its response time was unreasonable.


Missouri Independent editor Jason Hancock writes:

In Missouri, few elected officials have had a more combative relationship with the press than Gov. Mike Parson. He regularly lashes out with baseless attacks on the media, and during his tenure in office he cut the number of statehouse parking spaces designated for reporters and revoked Capitol building passes for the press.

But all that pales in comparison to his push to prosecute a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter who uncovered a security flaw in a state website.

Top officials in Parson's administration initially wanted to thank the reporter. But instead, Parson convened a news conference to call the reporter a hacker, accuse the Post-Dispatch of trying to embarrass a Republican governor and to push for the reporter to face a criminal investigation.

Even after prosecutors and local law enforcement concluded no crime was committed, Parson refused to accept reality and continued to insist the reporter engaged in wrongdoing.

New Mexico

Source New Mexico editor Shaun Griswold writes:

The attack on press freedom in New Mexico is a personal affair that brought me unwanted attention and affirmed that journalists in the state will stand up to elected officials, or in this case wannabe elected officials.

I took a drive five hours south from my home on Aug 14, 2022, to Carlsbad, New Mexico. The assignment was to cover New Mexico GOP gubernatorial candidate Mark Ronchetti and his guest Ron DeSantis. This was before the Florida governor announced his candidacy for president, but we all knew what he was going to do. However, I was there for the weatherman turned statewide candidate Ronchetti. At this point he had yet to speak in many public forums, and my goal was to inform readers on his thoughts next to a national GOP elected.

It turned into something completely different.

Before I arrived, I had been denied a credential by Ronchetti's press secretary Enrique Knell, who cited Source New Mexico as a "left-wing" publication.

I opted to sign up for a ticket through the campaign and walk in to see the event, something I learned to do from other restrictive practices under former President Donald Trump.

When I arrived, two paid security guards had my face on their cellphones. With backup from armed sheriff's deputies, they denied me entry to the event.

I was so upset, I was starting to bum cigarettes and chain smoke. By the third American Spirit I got from someone in a 3 Percenters T-shirt, I noticed a piece of blank white cardboard. I grabbed it, took out my Sharpie and wrote a note soliciting interviews from anyone that was inside.

I still hit the assignment and learned early on what the rest of the country is still learning: Trump reigns supreme with these voters, even the people DeSantis brought in.

After I left, social media fueled a bigger conversation on press access. The campaigns had thought it was proper to push around a new, smaller news publication. They thought wrong. The attention to press access was brought up by every media outlet in New Mexico and several out of state.

I've repeatedly thanked Ronchetti, and by proxy DeSantis, because they showed me the strength of journalists when we work together.


Oregon Capital Chronicle editor Lynne Terry writes:

One of the most high-profile incidents in Oregon happened in September 2020, during a police raid on a large homeless camp in a public park in Medford in southern Oregon.

April Ehrlich, a reporter for Jefferson Public Radio, arrived before police to interview some of the dozens camped there. When police arrived, they closed the park and set up a media staging area a ways away.

Ehrlich refused to leave and continued reporting.

Four police officers surrounded her and handcuffed her arms behind her back as she shouted, "I'm a reporter! I am a reporter! I'm just doing my job."

She was hauled to jail, charged with trespassing, resisting arrest and interfering with an officer. She sat behind bars for hours before being released.

Journalists rallied to her defense, with about 50 news outlets joining a friend-of-the-court brief, including The New York Times, Washington Post and the Associated Press.

Last September, days before the case was due to go to trial, a judge dismissed it, calling her arrest a violation of her constitutional rights. Days later, she filed suit in U.S. District Court in Medford against the city of Medford and its city manager, Jackson County, and several police officers.

The case is ongoing.


Pennsylvania Capital Star editor Kim Lyons writes:

Perhaps the most egregious attempts to stifle the press in Pennsylvania recently have come from candidates for public office. Doug Mastriano, the GOP candidate for Pennsylvania governor in 2022, did not engage at all with most reporters (unless they were from "friendly" right-wing outlets), had aides physically prevent reporters from entering his campaign events (at one event by a gentleman in a tri-cornered hat, no less) and had reporters photos' printed out at a check-in desk at another event, to bar them from entry.

Mastriano lost to Democrat Josh Shapiro by 14 points in the general election.

South Dakota

South Dakota Searchlight editor Seth Tupper writes:

When I was working at the Daily Republic in Mitchell, a local surgeon told our editor he was lucky the paper hadn't been "firebombed" after we questioned the surgeon regarding his repeated use of racial slurs. The situation resulted in temporary police protection for the paper, while the surgeon eventually stepped down from the hospital board (whatever other consequences he faced, if any, were hidden behind the wall of "personnel matters").

When I was working at the Rapid City Journal, members of a local water development board (a publicly elected body that levies a small tax) tried to use $100,000 of the board's public funds to sue the newspaper because they were angry about our coverage. Other board members shot down the proposal. Board members pushing the plan said some things to and about me and the paper that were borderline threats, including, "When you've got a bully on the beach, sometimes you've got to go pop them on the nose before you get things squared away, and that's kind of how I look at the Rapid City Journal situation," and, "Your judgment day is ahead."

West Virginia

West Virginia Watch editor Leann Ray writes:

West Virginia journalists are no strangers to assaults on the free press - and the worst part is that most of it is coming from inside their own organizations. West Virginia Watch was formed because of this.

In December 2022, three reporters from the Charleston Gazette-Mail, including our Caity Coyne, were fired for tweets criticizing HD Media President Doug Skaff - who was also the West Virginia House of Delegates minority leader at the time - for interviewing former coal mine operator Don Blankenship on his online political podcast and not pushing back on Blankenship's denial of climate change or that he had any responsibility in the 2011 Upper Big Branch Mine disaster.

But that's not all. That same month, it was discovered that Skaff had an IT employee delete a 2015 Gazette-Mail story about Skaff being banned from casino gambling in West Virginia after he was caught cheating during a Blackjack game at the Greenbrier resort. When editors found out, the story was put back on the website with an editor's note.

Also in December, Amelia Ferrell Knisely was abruptly let go from her position at West Virginia Public Broadcasting for reporting on the Department of Health and Human Resources. Knisely reported stories about allegations concerning people with disabilities being abused in state-run facilities. Her termination followed the DHHR demanding that one of her stories be retracted. She now works for West Virginia Watch.

And we can't forget the time that Gov. Jim Justice said he wished Gazette-Mail Statehouse Reporter Phil Kabler was hijacked on a train, and threatened to sue Kabler and the paper.

These are just instances we know because we lived them. The Charleston Gazette-Mail is West Virginia's largest newspaper, and people still think of it as the "liberal media," so it might have received more negative attention than other news outlets.


Wisconsin Examiner editor Ruth Conniff highlights this column from Bill Lueders:

Now there is a case in Wisconsin that is drawing national attention as an example of the use of brute force by government officials against a local news outlet. In an article that appeared in Wednesday's paper, New York Times reporter Jeremy W. Peters looks into the lawsuit brought by Cory Tomczyk, now a Republican state senator from Mosinee, against the Wausau Review & Pilot, a digital newspaper started and edited by Shereen Siewert. …

In an email exchange on Wednesday, Siewert said she believed the purpose of Tomczyk's lawsuit is "to bankrupt me and crush our organization." She recalled her sense of relief when the lawsuit was dismissed. "But then the realization hit that even if we win, we lose, because there is no way for us to counter sue or recoup our losses in any way … because we live in Wisconsin."

This column was originally published by Kansas Reflector, which is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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DE August 22, 2023, 6:56 am We know it's the GOP in Iowa bending over backwards to hide potentially shameful activities, even going so far as to pretend "it takes a small town" is somehow different than "it takes a village" when it comes to raising other people's kids.

I'm curious which party is playing fast and loose with the 1st in all those other incidents mentioned.
GB August 22, 2023, 11:55 pm DE, how could you possibly make such a reckless statement? You sound a bit bias.

As I read the article, it appeared to be a reflection of the same tactics the Biden Crime Family and their clutch of clowns would be using. I remember Obama trying to shut down any press against his administration. Now we have a corrupt den of thieves in the Whitehouse. I doubt it would be the Republican behind it, unless of course what is being raided would be some Biden endorsed point of corruption involving misinformation controlling social media and free speech.
RS August 23, 2023, 2:11 pm Gerald, Reading comprehension must not be your strong suit. Look at the dates on some of these examples, many before or during 2020. Who was President then? Our own Republican State House has drastically reduce access to the public and the media. (check out Iowa Starting Line for info.) Just yesterday in Tennessee, the Republican majority banded public comment and attendance while the state house was debating restrictions on gun legislation after the mass shooting in Nashville Christian School. The reason the public overwhelming wants new legislation but the Republican controlled Legislature has different ideas.

The Vinton Today editor champions the 1st Amendment, where is the editor's comment concerning this immerging trend of limiting public and media access and mostly by Republicans?

Editor's Note: I'm for free speech everywhere, in every genre, and even in government meeting, something that has been threatened locally. I don't particularly care if it's Democrat or Republican lead muzzling, I'm not for it. I just haven't been following the examples that you cited. What I'm NOT for is people hunting down those that speak here or anywhere to harass them.
RS August 23, 2023, 7:11 pm Funny, Valerie, you seem to not have a problem with comments on here containing vicious insults and name-calling. It would appear that the more the insults are flying the more you like it.

Editor's Note: The hard part to believing in free speech is allowing it even when people use it and show who they really are. Even comments like this which make a judgment about who you think I am, I will allow.
DE August 24, 2023, 6:08 am GB

Any individual that says they're not biased is either not very honest or not very bright.

I'm sorry that pointing out GOP shenanigans and malfeasance is shooting fish in a barrel these days, but it is what it is. Y'all sold your souls for a temporary tax cut.
GB August 24, 2023, 3:47 pm RS,
Getting the big picture does not seem to be one of your strong qualities.

Except for our local news, the vast majority of the main stream media have lost focus on what their job is. People (myself included) want the news and all of the news. Not some politically slanted version of some producer's political opinions of what they believe people should know while disregarding other news that doesn't fit their agenda.
The majority of Americans currently view the main stream media on the same level as they do used car salesmen. No one trusts them or what they report anymore. You actually have to flip between news channels to get the bigger and more factual picture and even that can be blurry.
Journalists need to report the news, all of the new and only the news. They should not be picking and choosing what is worthy of reporting based on their political agenda.
RS August 25, 2023, 11:44 am Gerald,
I do not like the tit for tat comments of Vinton Today, but I have to call you out for your projection and gaslighting. First, how do you know what I read or watch for news? You don’t. You are implying that because I do not parrot your narrow view, my opinions are illegitimate. That is projection.

Your answer to everything is the non-existent “Biden Crime Family”. Even your first answer to this original letter. This article had nothing to do with President Biden but rather the attempts around the country by mostly Republicans to limit and intimidate media and public access to information. Something you said could not possibly be anything to do with Republicans when in black and white the article clearly says just that. Not from one source but many.

That is gaslighting. When someone tries to assert that, in this case, the article was referring to something exactly opposite of what was being said for their own agenda.
Rosemary Schwartz
GB August 25, 2023, 2:24 pm RS,
I could care less what you like or dislike. We have a "real" crook in the White house. In fact, we have a family of crooks in the White House selling out this country to the highest bidders while they get filthy rich on our tax dollar.
We have scandal after scandal pouring out from this corrupt administration like hogs to market. I'm not talking about the fake scandals the Dems in DC got started about Trump and kept going for 4 years. It was all fake! Zero Russian collusion! There was far more collusion between Hillary and the Russians than the other way around. I'm not defending Trump either yet right is right and wrong is wrong.