A Fox News reporter does not have to reveal the source for her reporting on the mass shooting in an Aurora, Colo., theater, New York’s top court ruled Tuesday.
In a split decision, the New York Court of Appeals sided with reporter Jana Winter, who had reported about the contents of a notebook sent from gunman James Holmes to his psychiatrist. Winter, who is based in New York City, had argued that she was protected under New York’s shield law, which keeps journalists from having to reveal their confidential reporting sources through a subpoena or court.
The court ruled 4-3 in favor of Winter, who is based in New York City.
“New York journalists should not have to consult the law in the jurisdiction where a source is located or where a story ‘breaks’ (assuming either is ascertainable) in order to determine whether they can issue a binding promise of confidentiality,” Judge Victoria Graffeo wrote in the majority opinion.
Winter had been called to appear in January before the Arapahoe County court in Colorado.
In a dissenting opinion, Judge Robert Smith said New York’s shield law shouldn’t apply because Winter had performed her reporting out of state.
“I do not think this is a proper case, however, because the allegedly privileged communications took place wholly in Colorado, and the New York Shield Law does not apply to them,” Smith wrote.
UPDATED: Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, a Putnam County resident, hailed the Court of Appeals ruling.
“Today’s ruling is a major win for all journalists,” he said in a statement. “The protection of Jana Winter’s confidential sources was necessary for the survival of journalism and democracy as a whole. We are very grateful that the highest court in New York State agreed with our position.”
Here’s the decision: