There’s a new ruling in shield law coverage. In Nevada, First Judicial District Judge James Wilson ruled that online news outlets that aren’t part of the Nevada Press Association don’t get shield law coverage, Nevada news site This is Reno reported.
However, the Reno Gazette Journal noted, “Nevada’s shield law protecting journalists doesn’t specify that all news organizations must be members of a press association. The law was also written before the advent of the Internet and doesn’t list online news sites, but it does include newspapers, radio and television stations.”
A Nevada county commissioner and brothel owner named Lance Gilman sued the online news site The Storey Teller over its reporting he may not have been a resident in the county where he is commissioner, which he says is defamation. While most of his defamation lawsuit was thrown out, one claim wasn’t. Gilman also wanted to know the identity of the Storey Teller‘s sources. The judge ruled that Storey Teller editor Sam Toll must pony up his sources for stories published before Toll joined the press association.
“Because Toll was not a reporter for a newspaper or press association before August of 2017, he was not covered by the news media privilege before August of 2017 and, therefore, the motion to compel must be granted as to any source of information obtained or procured by Toll before August of 2017,” the judge ruled according to This Is Reno. Toll told iMediaEthics that the only article still in question in the lawsuit is an Oct. 2017 article, “Teller files criminal complaint with Storey DA, Sheriff.”
By e-mail, Toll told iMediaEthics, ”By coming forward and disclosing wrongdoing within government or business, whistleblowers stand to lose their jobs, their families or worse. If whistleblowers can’t rely on journalists to maintain their anonymity, we all lose as a society. The most valuable currency we have as journalists is our integrity. I made a promise to my sources and must now consider the real prospect of jail time simply because I don’t put ink to paper while reporting. This ruling mixes two parts Kafka with one part Orwell for online journalists in Nevada and across the country.” iMediaEthics has written to Gilman and the press association.
In a statement on the Storey Teller‘s website, Toll’s lawyer, Luke Busby, said: “While we respect Judge Wilson, we fundamentally disagree that an online journalist should be compelled to reveal their sources because they publish news articles in an online newspaper instead of traditional print newspaper. Such a ruling undermines the protection of fundamental Constitutional principles of freedom of speech and of the press and stifles the free flow of information that is essential for any free society to exist.”