Reporter Doesn't Have to Hand over Notes
The Washington state Court of Appeals made a precedent-setting ruling on Feb. 5 that a reporter's notes were privileged and confidential, overturning an earlier order by a King County Superior Court judge that the notes be given to plaintiff attorneys engaged in a lawsuit.
But while First Amendment advocates say the ruling appeared to favor the reporter, they also say the three-judge panel undermined freedom of the press by demanding a look at the notes in question before making a decision.
The lawsuit stemmed from an article that appeared in Columbia Journalism Review, describing the dismissal of 18 reporters from The Arizona Republic. The story included a controversial quote from then-- managing editor Steve Knickmeyer, who called the laid-off reporters "fat, lazy, incompetent and slow." The reporters then sued Phoenix Newspapers, which owned the Arizona Republic at the time, claiming defamation.
The reporters' attorneys demanded to see the author's interview notes and rough drafts, arguing that the notes held critical evidence and were not protected because Knickmeyer was not a confidential source. Underwood refused to turn over his story material, claiming it was protected by the First Amendment. …