Citizen Journalism and the Reporter's Privilege

78 Pages Posted: 28 Sep 2006

See all articles by Mary-Rose Papandrea

Mary-Rose Papandrea

University of North Carolina School of Law


The reporter's privilege is under attack, and "pajama-clad bloggers" are largely to blame. Courts and commentators have argued that because the rise of bloggers and other "citizen journalists" renders it difficult to define who counts as a reporter entitled to invoke the privilege, its continued existence is in grave doubt.

The accompanying Article argues that this hysteria is misplaced. The development of the internet as a new medium of communication in many ways poses the same kinds of challenges to the reporter's privilege that courts and state legislatures have faced for decades as television reporters, radio commentators, book authors, documentary filmmakers, and scholars seek to invoke its protections. After exploring the history and purpose of the reporter's privilege, and the increasingly significant contributions of citizen journalists to the public debate, this Article makes a radical proposal: everyone who disseminates information to the public should be presumptively entitled to invoke the reporter's privilege, whether based on the First Amendment, federal common law, or a state shield law. Rather than attempting to limit the category of individuals who are entitled to the privilege by focusing on the medium of publication, the "newsworthy" nature of the desired information, or a "functional" approach that unconstitutionally requires judicial scrutiny of the editorial process, the focus should instead be on limiting the scope of the privilege itself. This Article offers several exceptions to a presumptive privilege that appropriately balance the public's fundamental interest in a vigorous and informed debate against its equally important interests in fairness and justice.

Keywords: citizen journalists, bloggers, reporter's privilege, Internet law

Suggested Citation

Papandrea, Mary-Rose, Citizen Journalism and the Reporter's Privilege. Minnesota Law Review, Vol. 91, 2007, Boston College Law School Research Paper No. 110, Available at SSRN:

Mary-Rose Papandrea (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina School of Law ( email )

Van Hecke-Wettach Hall, 160 Ridge Road
CB #3380
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380
United States

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