Joshua Rich


Rooted in the U.S. Constitution and state statutes known as shield laws, the reporter’s privilege has long guarded news gatherers who wish to keep their sources secret. The majority of states have codified shield laws. These statutes support the First Amendment, whose free-press provision allows journalists to act without government control. But the boundaries of the reporter’s privilege have become blurred. Who, in this electronic era of citizen journalism, qualifies as a reporter for the purposes of shield-law protection? Can a blogger enjoy the same benefits that a typical print, radio, or television journalist receives? This Comment examines the case of Too Much Media, LLC v. Hale, in which the Supreme Court of New Jersey took an early step toward answering those questions. In holding that the state’s shield law did not protect a woman who posted her reporting on an Internet message board, the court was among the first to apply the reporter’s privilege in cyberspace. But it should have done more in order to preserve the vitality of shield laws—and of the democratic values that underpin the First Amendment—in the age of new media.

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