NORTH CAROLINA — Legislation that makes police records on private college campuses in the state more accessible was signed into law in June. Under the new law, private schools with police agencies will be required to disclose narrative descriptions surrounding arrests, as well as 911 calls. The legislation was introduced at the request of private colleges following oral arguments before the state’s Supreme Court in a case involving police records at Elon University. In that case, a student journalist requested information about an arrest on campus and was given only limited information. He sued, arguing that a state statute names the state’s attorney general as the custodian of all campus police records, which would have made the records he sought public.
WISCONSIN — Journalists with the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, which publishes Wisconsin Watch, successfully fought back a budget provision added by state lawmakers that would have expelled the Center from its offices at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and ban faculty from working with the Center as part of their faculty duties. The Center publishes investigative news stories that are published throughout the state by other news organizations. It also provides internships for students at the university. Journalism groups were concerned that if the provision was passed, legislators in other states might try and enact similar restrictions. The provision was vetoed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Both the House and Senate are considering bills that would create a federal shield law that would allow journalists to refuse to testify about or give unpublished information in connection with legal proceedings. The two proposed bills differ chiefly in who the law would protect. The Senate version defines “journalist” as anyone who gathers information with a primary purpose of distributing it to the public, while the House version defines “journalist” as someone who gathers and distributes news “for financial gain or livelihood.” The House version would exclude student journalists, who don’t produce news full-time. At a Senate hearing in August, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), proposed similar language to the Senate bill, saying that she believed it should be applied only to “real reporters.”