Shield Laws And Journalism: Building Relationships And Protecting Sources


  1. State Shield Laws are laws that protect journalists from revealing anonymous sources and shield witnesses from exposing certain information. Currently, there are 40 states in the United States with Shield Laws.
  2. Georgia recognizes, “any person, company, or other entity engaged in the gathering and dissemination of news for the public through a newspaper, book, magazine, or radio or television broadcast shall have a qualified privilege against disclosure of any information, document, or item obtained or prepared in the gathering or dissemination of news in any proceeding where the one asserting the privilege is not a party, unless it is shown that this privilege has been waived or that what is sought:


    (1) Is material and relevant;

    (2) Cannot be reasonably obtained by alternative means; and

    (3) Is necessary to the proper preparation or presentation of the case of a party seeking the information, document, or item.”
  3. Jessika Morgan is a journalist for The Free Press newspaper located in Kinston, N.C. Morgan received her Journalism degree from Georgia State University in Atlanta. She discusses the importance of building relationships in journalism. “It’s just always good, as a journalist, to have good relationships with people, establish those as soon as you get into the field and they will start to grow,” explains Morgan. “For sources, the way you even develop those is just by having good relationships with people.”


    Morgan explains the process of writing articles, which leads to obtaining and procuring sources. “Sometimes we get press releases and we’ll go and expand off the story,” says Morgan. “Other times since we’re out in the community so much, you’ll hear things or you’ll come across things and sometimes people will call you with story ideas.”
  4. Morgan interviewing a source.
    Morgan interviewing a source.
  5. Morgan talks about protecting sources and anonymity in journalism. “If I say a source is anonymous or the source chooses not to be revealed because of whatever reasons, then I wouldn’t tell people who it was, because of ethics we’re not supposed to do that,” said Morgan. “Especially if we write it, and we publish it, and print that the source didn’t want to be identified for whatever reasons, but sometimes the source has to be identified or else you can’t really use it, at least at our paper.”


    Morgan discusses situations in which sources may be adamant about remaining unidentified, even if the story may require named sources based on the topic. “If it’s an important piece of the story and you say the source is anonymous, that’s really not going to fly,” says Morgan. “If they still choose not to be identified, then you have to say why they chose not to be identified or you have to say how close they are to the situation in that regard, that is how I would handle it.”