By Davis, Joel
Editor & Publisher
The Washington State Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of a journalist whose notes were sought by reporters suing The Arizona Republic in Phoenix.
The court ruled Feb. 5 that Doug Underwood's notes were confidential and privileged, overturning a previous state Superior Court ruling that ordered the notes be given to attorneys for 18 reporters suing Phoenix Newspapers Inc. (the Republic's parent), and former Managing Editor Steve Knickmeyer. He was quoted by Underwood in a January 1998 Columbia Journalism Review story covering layoffs at the Republic as saying that most of those who had been laid off were "fat, lazy, incompetent, and slow." The reporters, on the other hand, told Underwood they were fired because their work conflicted with the newspaper's corporate interests.
The reporters claimed defamation by Knickmeyer, arguing in a civil suit that Underwood's notes constitute crucial evidence that is not protected by law because Knickmeyer was not a confidential source.
Underwood declined to turn over the notes to the reporters, saying they were protected by the First Amendment. …