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TV Newsroom Caves

Please read this article.  It aims at the heart of confidentiality.

www.newsobserver.com/2010/07/07/568183/a-setback-for-serious-reporting.html

Steve.Scott's picture

Melissa, this raises a very interesting question. Are state-owned broadcast outlets protected by Shield Laws...or, are they subject to FOIA?

Can you have both?

Interesting. I'd like to hear what other folks think.

Steve Scott, News Anchor
WCBS Newsradio 880
524 West 57th Street, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10019

(212) 975-2127

H.Wayne.Wilson's picture

Steve raises an interesting question. I am not sure about shield legislation protecting a state university news staff but my reading of the FOIA leads me to believe that news room materials at state university stations are subject to FOIA requests. The Act specifically names state universities and colleges as being subject to the Act, and further says any subsidiary bodies of those public bodies ..which are supported in whole or in part by tax revenue, are subject to the Act. So WILL, WUIS, WSIU, WNIJ, WIUM and WBEZ may very well fall under FOIA guidelines. However, it appears stations at private universities, like WCBU and WVIK, may be exempt even if they receive tax dollars. The Act does not apply to private not-for-profits or business corporations, even those that administer programs that expend public funds. I found no exemptions that seem to apply to state university stations that might excuse them.
Or at least that is my interpretation.

Steve.Scott's picture

Thanks, H, for your informative response. I'm no lawyer...but, I think you are right on target (as usual!).

Steve Scott, News Anchor
WCBS Newsradio 880
524 West 57th Street, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10019

(212) 975-2127

Jim.Gee's picture

There is nothing in Illinois' shield law which expressly excludes those who work for public institutions.

Ultimately the question would become-- are reporters who work at university-based news services "reporters" under the terms of Illinois' Shield Law? I agree with H that, on its own, FOIA could force reporters at university-operated news organizations to turn over privileged information. I think, in the best case scenario, it would require the court to weigh the language in FOIA with Illinois' existing shield law language, the freedom of the press protections in Illinois' constitution, and ultimately the First Amendment... and a little Branzburg v. Hays to boot.

So the real question becomes... is a state university going to be willing to fight it out in court and argue that FOIA does not trump Illinois' shield laws? And would a judge conclude that the privileged information meets the criteria in the shield law-- that the information is "is essential to the protection of the public interest involved"?

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has a guide to Illinois' shield law at http://www.rcfp.org/privilege/index.php?op=browse&state=IL

Don Craven has a pdf document online at http://www.cravenlawoffice.com/images/Reporter_sPrivilege.pdf

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