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  By Douglas Lee
Special to the First Amendment Center Online

No one doubts that the opening days, weeks and months of President Barack Obama's administration will be a flurry of activity. Efforts to stimulate the economy, protect the environment and reform health care likely will dominate the domestic agenda, and challenges from Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan almost certainly will require the new president’s attention.

While this activity will generate more than enough news to keep reporters, editors and publishers busy, those who gather and disseminate the news will have a special interest in whether Obama includes a federal shield law among his early legislative proposals.

During his campaign, Obama told newspaper executives at the annual meeting of the Associated Press that he endorsed a federal shield law to protect reporters from subpoenas and probing prosecutors. Obama, however, was less willing to protect anonymous sources, saying courts should be involved in determining whether a source’s confidentiality should be preserved.

News-media advocates were disappointed when a federal shield law, opposed by the Bush administration, stalled in the U.S. Senate in mid-2008. With the change in administrations, news organizations undoubtedly will try again, this time probably more optimistic about their chances than ever before. Whether they succeed and, if so, how the law will be written and applied will be questions worth watching in 2009.

Posted December 2008


Subpoenas issued to 3 Seattle Times reporters
City attorney — also head of state's Sunshine Committee — says information would help city defend itself against fired police officer's defamation suit. 12.03.07

Court allows lawsuit on NBC 'Predator' story to go to trial
Federal judge says jury might conclude NBC 'crossed the line from responsible journalism to irresponsible and reckless intrusion into law enforcement.' 02.27.08

State shield statutes & leading cases
By Bill Kenworthy State-by-state compilation of journalist-shield statutes, cases. 10.17.05

Track shield laws, subpoenas, confidentiality cases here

NBC ‘Predator’ lawsuit: journalism on trial
By Douglas Lee Judge cites SPJ, RTNDA ethical standards in finding that jury should hear case involving TV news sting operation that ended in suicide. 03.04.08

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