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BALCO reporters ordered to testify

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by 21, Aug 16, 2006.

  1. 21

    21 Well-Known Member


    Yesterday's news, with a very small and unnoticed thread on the Journ board, so here's a question for this board:

    If it's you--maybe not in this case, but in any case where you don't want to reveal your sources--do you go to jail? Say you have a family, kids, etc. Jail? Especially if your silence is protecting someone you think is a real slime?

    The obvious answer is that you're protecting much more than a slime, you're protecting our rights....but jail is not fun. It's one thing to say 'jail for sure'....but when those doors lock behind you, yikes.

    Thoughts? Options?
  2. Lugnuts

    Lugnuts Well-Known Member

    I've always been a proponent of a federal shield law protecting journalists. Most states have 'em - why not?

    As for jail, I think when you do this kind of reporting, you know in the back of your mind you could get sued or have to go to jail. It's part of the risk of this kind of work. I believe the guys have said they'll go. As we know from Greg Anderson, contempt is not a 'forever' thing. When it becomes clear they won't testify, the judge has to let them out.
  3. Bubbler

    Bubbler Well-Known Member

    Couldn't say it better.

    I'll add that if you go to jail, it's almost like a perverted sacrifice for your future -- family or not. If you roll over, aren't you hurting your family in the long run because you would likely lose some respect in the biz?

    And here's another question -- do media outlets pay reporters who are in jail protecting a source? That would make a big difference.
  4. Pastor

    Pastor Active Member

    This is an important topic. For me, not that this would ever be an issue, I guess it really depends on the surrounding events.

    - How long could I possibly spend in jail?

    - What is my current family income and what will be lost from my time in jail?

    - What kind of jail will I be sent to?
  5. One of those questions nobody really knows the answers to until it hits them in the face.
    The one person I know who actually went to jail over something like this told me that the other inmates left him alone because they admired what was essentially his "no snitching" stand.
    Weird code of honor there.
  6. Flying Headbutt

    Flying Headbutt Moderator Staff Member

    I would assume the Chronicle would continue paying them for backing up their sources. Unless of course the publisher was recently promoted from Mobile (I think?), Alabama or Santa Barbara.
  7. Bubbler and Headbutt both make good points. These guys most likely would still be on the payroll for the duration of their stay and the publicity for their stand should enhance their reputations in the industry and thus make them more of a hot commodity. If they use the time in jail to write a book on the experience while never missing a payday - isn't this sort of a perverse win/win for them?

    To also echo something Fenian said - the inmates would probably tend to stay away from these guys while the guards would probably be extra supportive because they are all probably sports fans and wouldn't view these guys as criminals but as regular guys.

    I know I'm not going to word this properly but there is something I'm curious about. There is a law that says a criminal can't write a book about their misdeeds and thus profit from their crime. Would that law apply to a journalist in jail?
  8. Armchair_QB

    Armchair_QB Well-Known Member

    They sure as fuck should.

    And they should be picking up your legal tab. Though I'm sure there are some places where you'd have to turn in receipts and expense it.
  9. dog428

    dog428 Active Member

    I came somewhat close to having this happen to me. Got into a coach's firing, uncovered some bad shit the university was trying to pull and ended up getting a subpoena in one of the lawsuits demanding I reveal my sources.

    I worried about this shit for two weeks and had convinced myself that I wouldn't flip on anybody. Got lucky in that the case ended up before a very media-friendly judge. Not only did she refuse to order me to reveal my sources, she wouldn't allow anyone to call me to testify.

    Obviously, I didn't end up in the position these guys are in, with prison basically staring me in the face. But I'm pretty sure from that experience that I wouldn't roll. Yeah, it was sports and not exactly protecting a White House leak, but still, the rules don't change. And no matter what you think about how many people will know, they'll know. And getting someone to trust you again will be a long road.

    Oh, I asked if I would be paid while in jail, I got an "Absolutely." I was half joking when I asked, but they didn't seem to be.
  10. cougargirl

    cougargirl Active Member

    I will be shocked if Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada name their sources. Absolutely shocked. On the basis of principles, refusing to name sources and possibly going to jail would be a badge of honor for a reporter.
  11. goalmouth

    goalmouth Well-Known Member

    Good move, stonewall until the last minute, then turn over your notes to the feds. Worked for Matt Cooper.
  12. So I can't say for sure what I would do ... only what I think I would do. But just to play devil's advocate here let me pose this:

    I don't completely understand the way being in comtempt of court works,  but they say throw you in jail for an extended period of time ... we're talking six months or possibly longer. I understand the importance of keeping the trust of your sources and your reputation inside the world of journalism, but say you do have a family, spouse and kids. Is it really worth disrupting your life for this?

    Again, I'd like to think I'd bite the bullet and take the time in the slammer, perhaps writing a book on my experiences if it's allowed. But I also wonder what six months or so in jail would do to my life.
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