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Reporter's Rights

Reporter's Rights

Reporters’ privilege is protection against compelled disclosure of sources. It allows journalists the privilege of avoiding having to testify and giving up a source’s identity or information they gathered in an interview.

 

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Angela Hart

Angela Hart

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In a landmark case about the reporter's right to keep sources confidential, Branzburg v. Hayes, the U.S. Supreme Court court noted: "We do not question the significance of free speech, press, or assembly to the country's welfare. Nor is it suggested that news gathering does not quality for First Amendment protection; without some protection for seeking out the news, freedom of the press could be eviscerated." The Court introduced this defense of a free press simply to state that forcing reporters to testify about sources is not covered by this constitutional protection. And in the years since the 1972 Branzburg decision, the high court has never spelled out that protection.

Article: A Reporter's Field Guide
Source: A Reporter's Field Guide ...

In a landmark case about the reporter's right to keep sources confidential, Branzburg v. Hayes, the U.S. Supreme Court court noted: "We do not question the significance of free speech, press, or assembly to the country's welfare. Nor is it suggested that news gathering does not quality for First Amendment protection; without some protection for seeking out the news, freedom of the press could be eviscerated." The Court introduced this defense of a free press simply to state that forcing reporters to testify about sources is not covered by this constitutional protection. And in the years since the 1972 Branzburg decision, the high court has never spelled out that protection.
In two subsequent cases involving media access to prisons -- Pell v. Procunier and Saxbe v. Washington Post -- the Supreme Court declined to extend this access right any further. The majority of the court concluded that as long as restrictions treat the media and public equally, they raise no constitutional questions.
After the prison access cases, the Court later found in Richmond Newspapers Inc. v. Virginia that the public and media have a First Amendment right to attend criminal judicial proceedings, which reinforces the idea that newsgathering is constitutionally protected. And in Globe Newspaper Co. v. Superior Court, the Court noted that because the right to publish news depends on the ability of the media to gather information, restrictions on the right to gather news diminish the right to publish. But these standards have been so far limited to the realm of access to court records and proceedings, and, in fact, the high court has not extended the access right to civil proceedings.

Article: A Reporter's Field Guide
Source: A Reporter's Field Guide ...

In a landmark case about the reporter's right to keep sources confidential, Branzburg v. Hayes, the U.S. Supreme Court court noted: "We do not question the significance of free speech, press, or assembly to the country's welfare. Nor is it suggested that news gathering does not quality for First Amendment protection; without some protection for seeking out the news, freedom of the press could be eviscerated." The Court introduced this defense of a free press simply to state that forcing reporters to testify about sources is not covered by this constitutional protection. And in the years since the 1972 Branzburg decision, the high court has never spelled out that protection.

Article: A Reporter's Field Guide
Source: A Reporter's Field Guide ...

In a landmark case about the reporter's right to keep sources confidential, Branzburg v. Hayes, the U.S. Supreme Court court noted: "We do not question the significance of free speech, press, or assembly to the country's welfare. Nor is it suggested that news gathering does not quality for First Amendment protection; without some protection for seeking out the news, freedom of the press could be eviscerated." The Court introduced this defense of a free press simply to state that forcing reporters to testify about sources is not covered by this constitutional protection. And in the years since the 1972 Branzburg decision, the high court has never spelled out that protection.
In two subsequent cases involving media access to prisons -- Pell v. Procunier and Saxbe v. Washington Post -- the Supreme Court declined to extend this access right any further. The majority of the court concluded that as long as restrictions treat the media and public equally, they raise no constitutional questions.
After the prison access cases, the Court later found in Richmond Newspapers Inc. v. Virginia that the public and media have a First Amendment right to attend criminal judicial proceedings, which reinforces the idea that newsgathering is constitutionally protected. And in Globe Newspaper Co. v. Superior Court, the Court noted that because the right to publish news depends on the ability of the media to gather information, restrictions on the right to gather news diminish the right to publish. But these standards have been so far limited to the realm of access to court records and proceedings, and, in fact, the high court has not extended the access right to civil proceedings.

Article: A Reporter's Field Guide
Source: A Reporter's Field Guide ...

As of December 2007, thirty-two states and the District of Columbia have statutory shield laws. These states include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Tennessee (citations to the various state statutes are listed below). A number of state courts have also recognized a privilege based on their state constitutions, common law, or the First Amendment.

Article: State Shield Laws
Source: State Shield Laws | Digit...

Legal liability applies to everyone who had their eyes on and responsibility for the piece, so this includes editors. Usually it’s not the writer who’s sued, but the staff or the college (they have more money), but if the college doesn’t have content control over the newspaper, they’re usually safe. Libel cases against student publications are rare because generally people recognize that the journalists are students and are still learning, but cases do happen. 

Libel is “any published communication — words, photos, pictures, symbols — that falsely harms a person’s reputation.”[1] If it’s a true statement, then it can’t be libel. Any printed content can be libelous, and defamatory statements made in television and radio broadcasts are usually also defined as libel. (Slander is another form of defamation, but it is oral, not written.) Republication of libel can still count as libel. To have a successful libel claim, the plaintiff must prove five things: 

Publication — that the statement was communicated to someone other than the subject of the statement. Even circulating a draft in a newsroom constitutes publication. 

Article: Reporters' Rights and Res...
Source: Reporters' Rights and Res...

Reporters’ privilege is protection against compelled disclosure of sources. It allows journalists the privilege of avoiding having to testify and giving up a source’s identity or information they gathered in an interview. The argument for reporters’ privilege is that if journalists hang under the constant threat of subpoenas, their job of getting and disseminating information will be much more difficult. Occasionally confidential sources are key to revealing a story — think Bob Woodward, Deep Throat and Watergate — and so proponents of reporters’ privilege argue that journalists should be able to keep the confidentiality of their sources safe. 

Article: Reporters' Rights and Res...
Source: Reporters' Rights and Res...

Also known as sunshine laws, these allow reporters, students, and members of the general public to access public records. The idea behind them is that people should have freedom to be informed about what their government is doing. Sometimes officials are reluctant to turn over records, and law enforcement officials and school administrators are especially notorious for their tendency to be non-compliant. But don’t give up if someone refuses to give you information or refuses comment on a matter! It could just be a temporary obstacle, so explore further before stopping. 

Most records of a public agency or meetings by a public agency must be open unless the law specifically exempts it. State law exemptions vary. Usually officials are compliant and requests for information are informal, so try that first. If that fails, there are some tools you can use to get the information you want. 

Article: Reporters' Rights and Res...
Source: Reporters' Rights and Res...

For Justice william o. douglas, the First Amendment offered immunity from appearing or testifying before a grand jury unless the reporter were implicated in a crime. Justice potter j...

Article: Reporter's Privilege
Source: Encyclopedia of the Ameri...

The reporter's privilege issue posed in branzburg v. hayes (1972) is a microcosm of the difficulties of both journalism and law in accommodating traditional procedures and principles to the development of widespread disenchantment and disobedience in American society. For knowledge about dissident groups we must depend on the efforts of journalists, efforts that will be impeded if the subjects believe that reporters' information will become available to law enforcement agencies...

Article: Reporter's Privilege
Source: Encyclopedia of the Ameri...
Angela Hart

Angela Hart

41 Knowledge Cards 

This source touches upon the case of Branzburg v. Hayes. This court case was one of the major decisions for reporter's rights and sheild laws. 

Reply

At the heart of the legal debate is a 1997 case that first recognized a reporter's shield privilege in Missouri. In State ex rel. Classic III v...

Article: Shielding Reporters from ...
Source: St Louis Journalism Revie...
Angela Hart

Angela Hart

41 Knowledge Cards 

This source was a part of a case that occured in 2001. It's important to note that reporter's rights have been an ongoing issue. Similarly, the decisions reached across different states are also noteworthy.

Reply

The various state statutes range in scope, from broad protections that provide an absolute privilege, to more narrow qualified privileges. Most state shield laws provide a qualified privilege, protecting source information in judicial proceedings, unless the compelling party can establish that the information is (i) relevant to matter at hand; (ii) unavailable by other means; and (iii) that a compelling need exists for the information.

Article: State Shield Laws
Source: State Shield Laws | Citiz...

As of December 2007, thirty-two states and the District of Columbia have statutory shield laws. These states include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Tennessee (citations to the various state statutes are listed below). A number of state courts have also recognized a privilege based on their state constitutions, common law, or the First Amendment.

Article: State Shield Laws
Source: State Shield Laws | Citiz...

Legislatures were more receptive to the journalists' plight, and the states began to enact privilege statutes, albeit slowly. In 1898, Maryland became the first state to enact such a privilege, and 33 years later, New Jersey was the second state to do so. By 1973, half of the states had followed suit. Legislatures enacted their statutes under various theories, such as the claim that the public interest in the free flow of information is useless without a journalist's right of access to information, and that journalists must rely on confidential informants to gain access to information. Legislatures also accepted the argument that journalists are entitled to privilege rights in their professions, similar to those of doctors, lawyers, or clergy. Critics point out that the professional privilege of doctors, lawyers, or clergy belongs to the client, not the professional; it is the client's right to assert the privilege and withhold information. Critics also contend that journalists are not in a service business like other professionals who are afforded privileges.

Article: Shield Laws
Source: Shield Laws legal definit...
Angela Hart

Angela Hart

41 Knowledge Cards 

It's important to note that laws differ from state to state. While there are numerous states with shield laws and reporter's rights, they may not be exactly the same, or uniform, throughout all the states. This is the same for other countless laws. 

Reply

Journalist shield laws, which afford news reporters the privilege to protect their sources, are controversial because the privilege must be balanced against a variety of competing government interests such as the right of the government to apprehend criminals and to prevent the impairment of Grand Jury investigations. Still, most states have enacted such laws, based on the First Amendment guarantee of Freedom of the Press. There is no federal journalist shield law, however, because the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to interpret the First Amendment as mandating a news reporter's privilege.

Article: Shield Laws
Source: Shield Laws legal definit...

The proposed Free Flow of Information Act, also known as the federal shield law, protects journalists from having to reveal their sources and documents. The law, if enacted, maintains vital information for citizens and ensures journalists and confidential informants won’t be silenced due to the threat of federal prosecution or subpoena.

Under the proposed law, the federal government must prove to a judge that the information sought outweighs the journalist’s need to keep confidential information.

Article: Society of Professional J...
Source: Society of Professional J...
Angela Hart

Angela Hart

41 Knowledge Cards 

Journalists used to be held liable if they did not name a souce. By not naming someone who gave them valuable information, when asked by a judge, the journalist could be sent to prison; the reporter was protecting their source, but at their personal expense. 

Reply

Although the U.S. Supreme Court has said newsgathering deserves some First Amendment protection, it has never defined clearly the scope of that protection, nor restrictions that may be placed upon reporters’ activities.
Most courts have ruled that the First Amendment provides journalists no greater right of access to property than that enjoyed by the public. Therefore, when an event occurs on nonpublic forum public property or private property, reporters may not have the right to enter if the general public is not usually allowed in.

Article: Introduction -- Journalis...
Source: Introduction -- Journalis...

News events often occur in public forums — property that is publicly owned and open to the general public, such as city parks or sidewalks where demonstrations take place. But government property that is not generally open to the public as a forum — such as courthouses, jails, government offices and city halls — is called “nonpublic forum public property.”
Private property generally presents more difficult access problems than public property. In most situations, the property owner cannot be forced to allow a reporter to cover an event or interview an individual on the premises. However, some courts have drawn distinctions between private property used for a private purpose, such as a person’s home, and private property used for a public purpose, such as a shopping center. Some states treat the latter as a type of public forum.

Article: Introduction -- Journalis...
Source: Introduction -- Journalis...
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