School and law enforcement officials sometimes look to the student media to provide them with information that they are unable — or unwilling — to track down themselves. Journalists, who occasionally rely on information provided by confidential or discreet sources, traditionally resist such efforts, citing, among other reasons, their need to maintain editorial independence and a desire not to be viewed as an investigative branch of the government. Subpoenas, search warrants, confiscation of notes or photos, newsroom searches and threats of punishment for those who refuse to cooperate are common problems faced by today’s student media and it is important that you know what to do should officials come knocking on your newsroom’s door.
- Confidentiality and Shield Laws FAQ -
The Student Press Law Center answers your most frequently asked questions about confidential sources and reporter’s privilege.
- Responding to school seizures and searches of cellphones -
While a school has leeway to decide how and when cellphones may be used, the Fourth Amendment restricts the ability of any government agency to seize a person’s property or search the contents of that property, including a phone. Learn what the law does — and doesn't — protect.
- State-by-state guide to the reporter’s privilege for student media -
Reporter's privilege laws vary by state. Some laws provide broad protection, shielding both unpublished and published information as well as confidential and non-confidential sources and information.
- Student media guide to protecting sources and information -
A comprehensive guide to reporters privilege laws created specifically for student media. Includes practical suggestions for students and advisers working with confidential sources.
- Student media guide to the Privacy Protection Act -
A look at the federal law that protects journalists from unauthorized newsroom searches and confiscation of their notes, photos and other newsgathering material.
- SPLC guide to publishing leaked material -
Handling and publishing material that has (possibly) been illegally obtained and provided by third-parties.
- To publish or not to publish? -
Frequently asked questions about publishing materials that may have been unlawfully obtained by others.
- Legal protections for journalists’ sources and information -
Brief overview of the state and federal protections that cover journalists' sources and information.