The following table discusses state shield laws and significant case law concerning the reporter's privilege to protect confidential sources and information, as well as non-confidential information and information already published or broadcast.
* The state's shield law provides an absolute privilege against disclosure of sources, and lower courts have interpreted it to protect other information as well.
Shield law: Alabama's shield law provides absolute protection against disclosure of sources' identities, whether or not they are confidential. (Ala. Code sec.12-21-142) The state's high court has not interpreted the statute.
Scope of protection: A circuit court has held that the state's shield law protects against compelled disclosure of any information obtained by a reporter while engaged in newsgathering, including all information or events witnessed by the reporter. (Brothers v. Brothers)
Newspapers and newspaper reporters have a statutory qualified privilege protecting them from forced disclosure of unpublished information obtained during newsgathering, including information other than confidential sources, according to a circuit court. (Norandal USA Inc. v. Local Union Co)
The shield law requires that sources and information be connected to a story that has actually been published or broadcast.
Who is covered: The shield law protects persons "engaged in, connected with or employed on any newspaper, radio broadcasting station or television station, while engaged in a newsgathering capacity."
Ala. Code sec.12-21-142 (Mitchie 1997)
Brothers v. Brothers, 16 Media L. Rep. 1031 (Ala. Cir. Ct. 1986)
Norandal USA Inc. v. Local Union Co., 13 Media L. Rep. 2167 (Ala. Cir. Ct. 1986)
* The shield law provides a qualified privilege preventing compelled disclosure of sources' identities, and courts have recognized a qualified First Amendment privilege protecting notes and other documents.
Shield law: Alaska's shield law provides a qualified privilege for sources' identities. The privilege may be overcome if withholding information would result in miscarriage of justice, denial of fair trial, or be contrary to the public interest. (Alaska Stat. secs.09.25.300-.390)
Scope of protection: In addition to the shield law's protection of sources, at least one trial court has held that in order to overcome a reporter's First Amendment qualified privilege against forced disclosure of information, a party seeking disclosure must show that the information is available only from the reporter subpoenaed, that alternative sources for obtaining it have been exhausted, and that it is crucial to his or her case. (Nebel v. Mapco Petroleum)
Who is covered: The shield law defines "reporter" as "a person regularly engaged in the business of collecting or writing news for publication, or presentation to the public, through a news organization."
Alaska Stat .secs. 09.25.300 - .390 (1997)
Nebel v. Mapco Petroleum, 10 Media L. Rep. 1871 (Alaska Super. Ct. 1984)
The state shield law creates an absolute privilege protecting sources' identities and a qualified privilege protecting other information.
Shield law: Arizona's shield law provides absolute protection against compelled disclosure of sources' identities. Subpoenas for other information must be accompanied by an affidavit stating that the material sought is relevant and material to a legal action and that attempts to obtain the information from alternative sources have failed. The affidavit must also identify the alternative sources. The affidavit is not required if the information is sought in connection with a grand jury investigation or an ongoing criminal investigation. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. secs.12-2214, 12-2237)
Scope of protection: Courts have not interpreted the shield law's protection of confidential sources, though the language of the statute indicates that the protection is absolute. …