Monday, October 19, 2009

Should Reporters on Twitter Get the Privilege to Refuse to Identify Confidential Informants When Subpoenaed?

This may be inside baseball since most reporters don't get subpoenaed and don't work with confidential informants.

David A. Logan, a dean and professor of law at Roger Williams University School of Law, wrote an interesting op-ed in the Boston Globe, "A reporter’s privilege for Twitterers," that makes the case that the law in this area (probably in most areas) has not kept up with the technology.

Taking a different stance is William H. Carey, a retired justice with the Massachusetts Superior Court. In his letter to the Globe, "Media will live to regret their support of shield laws," Carey says -- well, you can figure it out by the headline. Ok, he says, "As a matter of reality, the lack of a shield law statute very often is not the impediment to a final news story or journalist’s report. One can usually get the desired result without the help of any shield law. To seek relief through the legislative process rather than the courts is a mistake."

All right -- inside baseball. But should reporters expect the same protections when they post on Twitter as they do when they post an article to a newspaper? Both are just channels of distribution for news, but should it matter that one is online and the other print -- I don't think so. But there's enough anonymity on the blogosphere and the Internet. So should bloggers be able to get the protection of the shield law -- or only paid journalists?

What do you think?

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