The Newsman’s Privilege: An Empirical Study

Today, the statutory, common-law, and constitutional aspects of the long-dormant problem are being re-examined by many legislators, judges, and academicians. The Supreme Court is scheduled to address the constitutional question some time this term. I propose to enter this fray. In this article, I will report the results of an empirical survey that I have undertaken. In subsequent articles, I will analyze the eighteen state statutes that grant newsmen a privilege, consider whether protection for the reporter-news source relationship is compelled by existing common-law principles, and address the question whether a newsman’s privilege is properly to be inferred from the free-press clause of the Federal Constitution. Before proceeding, however, it may be helpful to sketch briefly some of the dimensions of the controversy.