Frances Madeson was a Missouri girl who moved to New York City. After her marriage ended, she left the big, bad city and moved to Farmington in Madison County, about an hour and a half south of St. Louis, where she set up a business writing letters and resumes for the good country people.
Soon enough, she became acquainted with Karen Whitener, a former mayor of Fredericktown, the Madison County seat, who had started up a fortnightly newspaper called the Madison County Crier. The Crier had gone under, but Whitener thought Madeson was just the woman to bring it back. Madeson, who saw in the Crier a potential bully pulpit, agreed. Her first issue came out in June.
Six issues later, it all went to hell.
Madeson is a good liberal, you see. She was brought up near St. Louis by a father, Marvin Madeson, who did the PR campaign for Eugene McCarthy in 1968 and later founded the New Democratic Coalition. After she graduated from Washington University, she went east to work as a legislative aide in the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor and then for several New York law firms and non-profits.
Like McCarthy, she considers herself a "change agent" and is passionately anti-war. (That's where her letter-writing business comes in: As she told Michael Miner, the longtime media critic for the Chicago Reader, "A precondition to change is to restore language to people.")
So when William and Donna Killian of Fredericktown submitted a notice to the Crier about how their son, Caleb, had graduated from Marine Corps boot camp, Madeson saw not the chance to print some local news, but an opportunity.
She dutifully printed the news about Caleb's graduation in the September 12 issue, and how he qualified as expert in marksmanship and was prayer leader for his platoon. And then she launched her protest.