Marion County Record to receive William Allen White Foundation National Citation

LAWRENCE – The Marion County Record has been selected to receive the 2024 William Allen White Foundation National Citation, marking the first time in the foundation’s history that the award will be presented to an organization rather than an individual. The award, which recognizes individuals or organizations for outstanding journalistic services, comes from a vote of the trustees of the William Allen White Foundation, which is named in honor of White.

Eric Meyer, editor of the Marion County Record, will accept the award on behalf of the Marion County Record in person on Thursday, April 11, at the Kansas Memorial Union.

“To be mentioned in the same breath as the great journalists who have received this award is an honor beyond comprehension,” Eric Meyer said. “It’s an important motivator to our staff as it continues to struggle to serve as an example for community journalists facing intimidation. This honor – especially being the first news organization selected for the award – has given us a much-needed second wind to continue.”

Eric Meyer.

This family-owned, small-town Kansas newspaper has long been known for practicing fearless and independent journalism. Then, in August 2023, city police officers swooped into its newsroom and the home of its owner and publisher with a search warrant to seize computers and cell phones. The raid came in response to reporting the newspaper had been doing on a local business owner and perhaps in response to reporting on the police chief himself.

“Courage and determination aren’t choices, particularly if you’re steeped in the traditions of William Allen White,” Eric Meyer said. “They’re reflexes. Putting out our first paper after the raid was automatic. We didn’t have time to think, feel or even comprehend what we’d been through. We had a job to do. It took two straight all-nighters, but we were not silenced by being seized.”

The newspaper’s 98-year-old editor emeritus, Joan Meyer, shocked at the police intrusion of her home, died shortly after. She worked one day per week writing a column and editing copy before her death. The paper’s current editor and KU alum, Eric Meyer, became a widely seen and quoted fighter on the need to protect journalists’ rights. The local authorities ultimately backed down and returned the newspaper’s materials.

“The selection of the Marion County Record as the recipient of this award continues a long tradition of the William Allen White Foundation Board of Trustees honoring distinguished journalists,” said Ann M. Brill, dean of the William Allen White School of Journalism. “The Record showed incredible courage and determination in the face of a threat to American democracy and displayed the importance of trustworthy local news.”

The Record was named the best in Kansas for overall news and writing in a contest for a third consecutive year against other midsize weekly and daily newspapers judged by out-of-state journalists in April 2023. The Record also won first place for best editorial pages. Eric Meyer also won first place for editorial writing in the Kansas Press Association contest.

Eric Meyer will give an address at 3 p.m. April 11 in the Ballroom of the Kansas Union. The event is free and open to the public.

Other notable recipients of the William Allen White Foundation National Citation include Kevin Merida, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Martin Baron, Sally Buzbee, Cokie Roberts, Leonard Pitts Jr., Paul Steiger, Gerald F. Seib, Candy Crowley, Seymour Hersh, John Carroll, Walter Cronkite, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Helen Thomas, Charles Kuralt, Bernard Shaw, Bob Woodward, Molly Ivins, Gordon Parks, Bob Dotson and Frank Deford. A complete list of recipients is on the School of Journalism and Mass Communications website.

The William Allen White Foundation was founded in 1945, one year after the Kansas Board of Regents established the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications at KU. The William Allen White Foundation has been recognizing outstanding journalists since 1950.