EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Power Of The Press, Take 2: Supreme Court Of Utah Adopts Reporter's Privilege

Utah has completed its transformation from one of only three states without some form of a reporter's privilege to a state with one of the strongest such privileges in the country with the passing of Utah Rule of Evidence 509.  I previously blogged about the proposed rule in December, and the Supreme Court of Utah finally adopted it yesterday, completing a process that has gone on since at least 2006.  My previous post has all of the specifics on Rule 509.  Briefly put, however, the privilege changes current Utah law under which news reporters refusing to disclose sources could be cited for contempt by judges and sent to jail.

The privilege grants near-absolute protection for the name and any information that would lead to the disclosure of the identity of confidential sources. Under Rule 509, a journalist will only have to identify a confidential source where there is clear and convincing evidence that the information is necessary to prevent substantial inury or death.  Furthermore, the rule covers unpublished information such as notes, outtakes, photos, tapes and documents collected by a reporter in pursuit of a story and states that a judge can order disclosure of such materials only after balancing the need of the party seeking the information against the public interest in protecting the free flow of information.



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Is there a definition of when a person will be designated a "news reporter" as opposed to, for example, a high school kid with a blog?

Posted by: mmf | Jan 26, 2008 8:13:39 AM

The privilege protects a "news reporter," which is defined under the privilege as "a publisher, editor, reporter or other similar person gathering information for the primary purpose of disseminating news to the public and any newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication, press association or wire service, radio station, television station, satellite broadcast, cable system or organization with whom that person is connected."


The Advisory Committee's Note to the privilege further indicates that "[t]he rule incorporates a relatively broad and flexible definition of news reporter to accommodate the ever-changing methods of expression and publication. While there are not many 'lone pamphleteers' still functioning, they have modern-day counterparts on the internet."


It certainly seems as if the "modern-day counterparts on the internet" are bloggers, who would thus be protected under the rule.

Posted by: Colin Miller | Jan 26, 2008 9:22:07 AM

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