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Abstract

Most states recognize a privilege for journalists to protect confidential sources from compelled disclosure. The privilege varies from state to state, and a major difference is how they define a journalist—i.e., a person qualified to claim the privilege. Some schemes are narrow and limit their coverage to employees of professional news organizations. Others are broad and cover freelancers, filmmakers, bloggers, and others who gather information for publication. But what about student journalists? Are they covered? In recent years, as traditional media have adapted to changing circumstances, student journalists have played a vital role in meeting their communities’ needs for news. This Article explores whether state reporter’s privilege protections cover student journalists by reviewing existing privilege schemes, ultimately finding that most exclude student journalists. This poses a unique problem because, as one commentator put it, “[i]f we’re going to ask students to fulfill the responsibility of being front-line newsgatherers, the least we can do is send them out into the field with the confidence of meaningful legal protection.” With that in mind, the Article offers solutions and calls for legislative action, arguing that student journalists need more than a paper shield to fulfill their editorial responsibilities. This is the first comprehensive scholarly analysis of these issues.

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