Who Is a Reporter?

Saturday, October 8, 2005

Nathan Siegel's recounting of the history of shield laws ["Our History of Media Protection," op-ed, Oct. 3] made it clear that the courts do not recognize a constitutional right for reporters to defy grand jury subpoenas requiring their testimony about information obtained from sources to whom they have pledged confidentiality.

However, a legislature can pass a statute to prohibit a grand jury from issuing such subpoenas when that legislature deems it in the public interest to do so. And courts respect the legitimacy of such laws. This is as it should be in a democracy.

Judges then would have to decide who is a reporter. Would bloggers be able to argue that they are reporters to obtain the protection of a shield law?

That answer will not be found in the Constitution, nor is it likely that legislatures will attempt to pass laws providing such a definition. So judges will have to rule and set precedents on the definition of a "reporter."

FRANK A. NICOLAI

Fort Washington


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