High school journalists protected in Kansas
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 It provides legal protection to reporters regarding their confidential sources, notes and unpublished materials unless disclosure is deemed legally necessary [usually by a court].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.”
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.