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Protecting Sources

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A constitutional clash, with the media on the losing end. Slideshow to accompany lecture of Feb. 11, 2009.

Published in: Education, News & Politics
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Protecting Sources

  1. 1. Protecting sources<br />A constitutional clash — withthe media on the losing end<br />
  2. 2. An old dilemma<br />In 1848, John Nugent of the New York Herald was held for refusing to identify a source to the Senate<br />
  3. 3. An old dilemma<br />In 1848, John Nugent of the New York Herald was held for refusing to identify a source to the Senate<br />The Herald gave Nugent a raise<br />
  4. 4. An old dilemma<br />In 1848, John Nugent of the New York Herald was held for refusing to identify a source to the Senate<br />The Herald gave Nugent a raise<br />After a month, the Senate gave up<br />
  5. 5. Another clash over the Sixth<br />“[T]he accused shall enjoy the right … to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor”<br />
  6. 6. Another clash over the Sixth<br />“[T]he accused shall enjoy the right … to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor”<br />All must testify before the grand jury<br />
  7. 7. Another clash over the Sixth<br />“[T]he accused shall enjoy the right … to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor”<br />All must testify before the grand jury<br />The First Amendment belongs to everyone, not just the press<br />
  8. 8. Journalist’s orreporter’s privilege<br />As with free press/fair trial, a balancing test<br />
  9. 9. Journalist’s orreporter’s privilege<br />As with free press/fair trial, a balancing test<br />Courts decide on a case-by-case basis<br />
  10. 10. Journalist’s orreporter’s privilege<br />As with free press/fair trial, a balancing test<br />Courts decide on a case-by-case basis<br />Guidelines have shifted over time<br />
  11. 11. Branzburg v. Hayes (1972)<br />Paul Branzburg’s sources had information about drugs<br />Two co-defendants had done confidential reporting on the Black Panther Party<br />
  12. 12. Byron “Whizzer” White<br />Wrote majority opinion<br />Rejected reporter’s privilege<br />Wrote that “the lonely pamphleteer” is as important as professional journalists<br />
  13. 13. Potter Stewart<br />Wrote minority decision<br />Criticized majority’s “disturbing insensitivity” to the role of a free press<br />Proposed a three-part balancing test<br />
  14. 14. The Stewart test<br />Does the journalist possess “clearly relevant” information?<br />
  15. 15. The Stewart test<br />Does the journalist possess “clearly relevant” information?<br />Is there no way of obtaining the information by “less destructive” means?<br />
  16. 16. The Stewart test<br />Does the journalist possess “clearly relevant” information?<br />Is there no way of obtaining the information by “less destructive” means?<br />Is there a “compelling and overriding need” for the information?<br />
  17. 17. Powell’s “enigmaticconcurring opinion”<br />Sides with majority’s view that there is no reporter’s privilege<br />Calls for “striking of a proper balance” between freedom of the press the obligation to testify<br />Stewart wins by losing (but not forever)<br />
  18. 18. The balancing test in practice<br />Relevance and importance of information<br />
  19. 19. The balancing test in practice<br />Relevance and importance of information<br />Availability through alternative means<br />
  20. 20. The balancing test in practice<br />Relevance and importance of information<br />Availability through alternative means<br />Type of controversy<br />Reporter’s privilege is weaker in a criminal case than a civil case<br />
  21. 21. The balancing test in practice<br />Relevance and importance of information<br />Availability through alternative means<br />Type of controversy<br />How information was gathered<br />Confidential sources are more privileged than first-hand observation such as Josh Wolf’s footage<br />
  22. 22. Shield laws<br />About 30 states have them<br />A shield law is being considered in Massachusetts<br />
  23. 23. Shield laws<br />About 30 states have them<br />Except for Wyoming, remaining states have judicial opinions granting some degree of journalistic privilege<br />
  24. 24. Shield laws<br />About 30 states have them<br />Except for Wyoming, remaining states have judicial opinions granting some degree of journalistic privilege<br />None is absolute — more like the Stewart balancing test<br />
  25. 25. Shield laws<br />About 30 states have them<br />Except for Wyoming, remaining states have judicial opinions granting some degree of journalistic privilege<br />None is absolute — more like the Stewart balancing test<br />No federal shield law<br />
  26. 26. What should be protected?<br />Justice White said you can’t define who is a journalist<br />Vanessa Leggett ran afoul of this and served 168 days<br />Is it possible to define journalism?<br />
  27. 27. Citizen journalists<br />Josh Wolf is the modern “lonely pamphleteer”<br />We need to protect journalism, and not worry about who’s a journalist<br />
  28. 28. Media arrogance<br />Mark Bowden asks: Why should the media stand in the way of justice?<br />“The First Amendment protects freedom of the press, but it doesn’t absolve it from all civic responsibility”<br />
  29. 29. Cohen v. CowlesMedia Co. (1991)<br />Damned if you do, damned if you don’t<br />
  30. 30. Cohen v. CowlesMedia Co. (1991)<br />Damned if you do, damned if you don’t<br />Based on the doctrine of promissory estoppel<br />A false promise that leads someone to engage in damaging behavior<br />Similar to contract law<br />
  31. 31. Cohen v. CowlesMedia Co. (1991)<br />Damned if you do, damned if you don’t<br />Based on the doctrine of promissory estoppel<br />A false promise that leads someone to engage in damaging behavior<br />Similar to contract law<br />Justice White: “generally applicable laws” do not violate First Amendment<br />
  32. 32. McKevittv. Pallasch (2003)<br />Richard Posner a highly influential conservative judge<br />Can’t ignore Supreme Court precedent<br />Tells colleagues to re-read Branzburg and see it for what it is<br />
  33. 33. Judith Miller case (2005)<br />Judge Sentelle adopts Posner’s view<br />Notes that Justice Powell sided with the Branzburg majority<br />Adds that Justice Department used balancing test<br />

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