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Record wins prestigious William Allen White award

Marion County Record was selected Friday to receive the prestigious 2024 William Allen White Foundation National Citation.

The award recognizes individuals or organizations for outstanding journalistic services.

It is voted on by trustees of the William Allen White Foundation, named in honor of White, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist for whom the University of Kansas journalism school also is named.

It marks the first time in the foundation’s history that the award will be presented to an entire organization rather than an individual.

Eric Meyer, editor of the Record, will accept the award and deliver a lecture April 11 at Kansas Memorial Union.

“To be mentioned in the same breath as the great journalists who have received this award is an honor beyond comprehension,” Meyer said.

Other notable recipients have included Walter Cronkite, Bob Woodward, Charles Kuralt, Helen Thomas, Marty Baron, Molly Ivins, Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer, Cokie Roberts, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Sally Buzbee, Bob Dotson, Frank Deford, Seymour Hersh, Gordon Parks, and Sanjay Gupta.

A complete list is on the School of Journalism and Mass Communications website at KU.

“It’s an important motivator to our staff as it continues to struggle to serve as an example for community journalists facing intimidation,” Meyer said. “This honor — especially being the first news organization selected for the award — has given us a much-needed second wind to continue.”

A news release about the award characterizes the Record as a family-owned, small-town Kansas newspaper long known for practicing fearless and independent journalism.

In August, police officers swooped into its newsroom and the home of its owners 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 co-owner, Joan Meyer, shocked at the police intrusion of her home, died the next day. She worked one day per week writing a column and editing copy before her death.

According to the news release, the paper’s other owner and current editor, her son, Eric Meyer, became a widely seen and quoted fighter on the need to protect journalists’ rights.

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.”

According to the news release, 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.

The Record also won first place for best editorial pages, and Eric Meyer won first place for editorial writing in the Kansas Press Association contest.

Eric Meyer’s address at 3 p.m. April 11 in the ballroom of the Kansas Union will be free and open to the public.

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.

Last modified Jan. 17, 2024

 

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