A Paper Shield? Whether State Privilege Protections Apply to Student JournalistsJonathan Peters*, Genelle Belmas†, and Piotr Bobkowski‡ Article - Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal
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A Paper Shield? Whether State Privilege Protections Apply to Student Journalists
Jonathan Peters*, Genelle Belmas†, and Piotr Bobkowski‡
Article

  The full text of this Article may be found here.

27 Fordham Intell. Prop. Media & Ent. L.J. 763
Article by Jonathan Peters* Genelle Belmas† Piotr Bobkowski‡

ABSTRACT

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ost states recognize a privilege for journalists to protect confidential sources from compelled disclosure. The privilege varies from state to state, and a major difference is how they define a journalist—i.e., a person qualified to claim the privilege. Some schemes are narrow and limit their coverage to employees of professional news organizations. Others are broad and cover freelancers, filmmakers, bloggers, and others who gather information for publication. But what about student journalists? Are they covered? In recent years, as traditional media have adapted to changing circumstances, student journalists have played a vital role in meeting their communities’ needs for news. This Article explores whether state reporter’s privilege protections cover student journalists by reviewing existing privilege schemes, ultimately finding that most exclude student journalists. This poses a unique problem because, as one commentator put it, “[i]f we’re going to ask students to fulfill the responsibility of being front-line newsgatherers, the least we can do is send them out into the field with the confidence of meaningful legal protection.” With that in mind, the Article offers solutions and calls for legislative action, arguing that student journalists need more than a paper shield to fulfill their editorial responsibilities. This is the first comprehensive scholarly analysis of these issues.


* Assistant Professor of Journalism, University of Kansas. Professor Peters teaches First Amendment law and media policy, and holds research positions in the KU Information and Telecommunication Technology Center and the KU Surveillance Studies Research Center. He is the First Amendment chair of the American Bar Association’s Civil Rights Litigation Committee, and serves on the Society of Professional Journalist’s Freedom of Information Committee. The authors are immensely grateful for the help of their research assistants, John Truong and Chris Teters, and of the IPLJ staff.

† Associate Professor of Journalism, University of Kansas. Professor Belmas teaches First Amendment law and media policy. Previously, she headed the journalism program at California State University, Fullerton. Her media law research has been cited by numerous courts of appeals. She is Research Chair of the Scholastic Journalism Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, and the lead author of the popular textbook Major Principles of Media Law.

‡ Associate Professor of Journalism, University of Kansas. Professor Bobkowski’s research focuses on scholastic journalism and the developmental role of media among adolescents and emerging adults. He serves on the board of directors for the National Scholastic Press Association, and is a recipient of the Gold Key Award and Pioneer Award, both given in recognition of outstanding dedication to the mission of the student press.