The Reporter’s Privilege, Then and Now

By Stephen Bates

A paper by Stephen Bates, fall 1999 fellow, explores how prosecutors and journalists see the issue of press subpoenas. Bates first looks at how the issue has been framed and fought over the years. Next, he tracks a subpoena issued to ABC, the litigation over it, and the subsequent commentary. The paper concludes with brief observations about, among other things, the intrusiveness of subpoenas, the theoretical and practical obstacles to recognizing a journalist’s privilege, the social costs of what some have called the “ritual jailing” of reporters, and the virtues—for press and government alike—of self-restraint.

Download the paper (PDF).