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    High school journalists protected in Kansas

    Date: 05.17.10 | by Judge Tom.

    Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson signed into law in May, 2010, a bill commonly referred to as a “shield law.”  It provides legal protection to reporters regarding their confidential sources, notes and unpublished materials unless disclosure is deemed legally necessary [usually by a court].

    The new law may include college and high school journalists under the language set forth therein. Without specifically mentioning high school reporters, it includes “a publisher, editor, reporter or other person employed by a newspaper, magazine, news wire service, television station or radio station who gathers, receives or processes information for communication to the public.” 

    Photo by Rogue Sun Media

    Although high school journalists aren’t technically ’employed’ to report news, the Kansas law further defines “acting as a journalist” as being “engaged in activities that are part of such journalist’s gathering, receiving or processing information for communication to the public.”  The law will have to be tested to see the extent of its coverage. In the meantime, high school reporters may continue to do responsible investigating and reporting and look to their advisor for guidance in this area.

    Approximately three dozen states have shield laws protecting journalists from unjustified subpoenas. There is no federal shield law, although Congress has attempted to pass such legislation.

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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