The concept behind privilege given by reporters is that, journalists have limited rights to the First Amendment in not forcing them to reveal their informant or source for the news in court. So for example, if there was a car accident they have reported, and talked to some witnesses such as heavy duty towing who were first in the scene, they have all the rights to not reveal the information in front of court.

Levelling the Ground

Journalists are relying on confidential sources in writing stories that matter to the public. There are a lot of reporters who believe that First Amendment is what safeguards them from testifying before grand jury in relevance to their sources and have their role as objective observers and neutral watchdogs.

As per the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, courts initially supported the concept that people can refuse in testifying when there’s determination that the society’s interest outweighs the requirement for a full evidence disclosure.

Recognizing Reporter’s Privileges

Again from the same committee, state constitutions, common law as well as state courts have exercised 3 options in this matter.

  • First would be that numerous states recognized the privilege of the reporter under state law. The highest court in New York for instance recognized qualified privilege as per the state’s constitution and protecting both the non-confidential and confidential materials.
  • Second is going to be on the basis of common law, which happens in other states. For instance, Washington State’s Supreme Court recognizes qualified privilege in civil cases before and later, among criminal cases.
  • The last option would be that in some other state courts including New Mexico, they have the ability of creating their own rules procedure.

Not only that, with the absence of court-recognized privilege or the applicable shield law, journalists have been so effective in persuading courts to disregard subpoenas on grounds of general applicable laws, which include state rules of evidence.

For Everyone’s Good

So long as the objective of reporters is for the good of the society and for the protection of its source, shield law can be a powerful tool in revealing the truth that the public has to know.