Expanding New York's Journalist Shield Law

An appellate panel in New York ruled in favor of broader journalistic protections this week in a case testing the boundaries of New York's reporter Shield Law, which protects professional journalists against compelled disclosure of, among other things, their anonymous sources.

Petitioner in the case sought to reveal anonymous sources cited in reports from Reorg Research, a subscription publisher primarily serving bankruptcy investors.  A February 2017 decision by a New York trial court ruled that Reorg was not entitled to the protections of the Shield Law because it did not fall within the category of "professional journalist" protected by the law: 

In her decision, Justice Edmead wrote that while “extraordinary protections are afforded to the press by our laws,” companies like Reorg, which cater to select, wealthy clients, “do not carry out the vital function of informing the public.” Indeed, she added, Reorg’s business model “deliberately keeps its information from reaching the general public.”

NYT.  The appellate panel unanimously reversed:

"We find that [the] respondent is exempt from having to disclose the names of its confidential sources by New York's Shield Law because it is a 'professional medium or agency which has as one of its main functions the dissemination of news to the public.'"  In re Murray Energy Corp. v. Reorg Research, Inc., 157797/16.

The decision means a broader category of publishers can rely on the protections of the Shield Law in carrying out their news- and information-gathering functions.