Tonawanda News

Opinion

April 10, 2013

DUVALL: Reporters rely on their good names

(Continued)

Tonawanda News — In short, we have to be sure what the sources are saying is correct. (That’s where Winter shined, having found two different people to confirm the same information, a huge step toward establishing its validity.)

Of course, the lawyers representing Mr. Holmes don’t have the same goal as an investigative reporter. 

Holmes’ legal team was apoplectic at the leak, which violated a judicial gag order prohibiting all involved in the case — including police and prosecutors — from speaking to the media.

There’s no doubt the journal leak is a detriment to Holmes’ defense. 

Now, bent on finding out who the sources in Winter’s story were, Holmes’ lawyers have issued a subpoena compelling her testimony. She, like any reporter would do in this unenviable situation, has lived up to her pledge to her sources not to reveal their identity. If she continues to refuse to do so while under oath she could be held in contempt and sent to jail.

Thankfully it hasn’t come to that just yet — but it could.

The judge overseeing the case ruled in court Tuesday Winter doesn’t have to testify, thanks largely to a technicality. Because the diary is presently covered by Holmes’ doctor-patient privilege it won’t likely be entered into evidence. That is, unless Holmes’ defense team decides to mount an insanity defense, which would open up questions about his prior treatment — and putting the journal back in play as potential evidence.

There are many instances where being a reporter is an uncomfortable profession. But being forced to out sources under penalty of jail has a chilling effect on sources speaking to reporters in general. 

It’s difficult enough to get people to give you information they don’t want made public without their questioning your credibility. When the government potentially compromises that trust beyond your control, it’s all the more infuriating.

Eric DuVall is the managing editor of the Tonawanda News. Contact him at eric.duvall@tonawanda-news.com.

Eric DuVall is the managing editor of the Tonawanda News. Contact him at eric.duvall@tonawanda-news.com.

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