Sources Won't Dry Up without Shield Laws

By Campbell, Linda P. | The Masthead, Summer 2009 | Go to article overview

Sources Won't Dry Up without Shield Laws


Campbell, Linda P., The Masthead


SURELY THE RIGHT to publish carries with it a right to gather information.

But does that, in turn, translate into a right to protect secret sources? I'm not yet persuaded that we need a federal law shielding news media from "compelled disclosure of information."

It's being sold as a way to make sure whistleblowers come forward and information the public needs isn't stifled. But just a look at recent awards from Investigative Reporters and Editors shows that the art of uncovering and disseminating sensitive material is flourishing.

Most shield laws set up a legal test under which journalists wouldn't have to testify about unnamed sources or hand over notes unless the reporters have critical information that can't be obtained elsewhere and the public interest tips in favor of testimony.

It's ironic that a proposal moving through Congress probably wouldn't have helped the journalists whose cases have stirred up the frenzy about a federal shield law.

Judith Miller went to jail instead of revealing that vice presidential aide Scooter Libby told her the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson. …

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Sources Won't Dry Up without Shield Laws
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