A journalist is only as good as his word. When a source considers sharing information with a journalist, the source often assesses its faith in the reporter. Trust becomes the currency exchanged between the two parties.
The reporter’s privilege — a journalist’s right to refuse to comply with subpoenas seeking documents or testimony from their sources or newsgathering materials — is an important tool used by those in the media to secure the trust of their sources. However, the reporter’s privilege is not absolute.
The reporter’s privilege is a strong but also fragile tool to ensure trust with sources. The privilege, emanating from common law, the First Amendment, and state law in many jurisdictions, can be waived if a journalist shares some information with a party in a lawsuit.
What constitutes a waiver and what a waiver actually means has not been ironed out in most states. But a California federal court recently found that waiver of the privilege did not occur even though the journalist complied with a portion of the subpoena. Although this is only one decision from one lower court in one state, it is a welcomed sight for journalists and media lawyers.
For more, please read my article on the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press’ website here.
It is my pleasure to share the news that I have accepted the 2015-16 Ethics & Excellence in Journalism Legal Fellowship with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. I am humbled and honored to have received this opportunity from the nation’s premier organization fighting to protect the First Amendment and freedom of information rights of journalists in the United States. During my fellowship I will focus on the areas of defamation, invasions of privacy, and reporter’s privilege. Expect to see more updates from these particular topics on MLonML.com in the coming year.
As a journalist and student of journalism, beginning my legal career advocating for press freedoms is a perfect fit. During my 1L summer studying in Lyon, France, I asked my mentor and media law professor Kelli Sager how to become a media lawyer. Without hesitation she said to apply for a fellowship with the Reporters Committee. That afternoon I bookmarked the Reporters Committee fellowship application on my laptop. A year and a half later I applied for a fellowship, interviewed in Washington, D.C., and soon after, accepted a fellowship position, fulfilling an almost two-year-old dream.
I am thankful to everyone at the Reporters Committee for giving me this opportunity. I look forward to moving to D.C. in August and beginning my legal career with some of the greatest First Amendment advocates in the nation.