Open Season on Medill?

In the new case, lawyers for Chicago police officers being sued for the false arrest of a teen-aged murder suspect, Thaddeus Jiminez, have gone to court to seek information from Carolyn Nielsen. She was a graduate student at Northwestern University in 1994 when she worked on the case. She is now an assistant journalism professor at Western Washington University. She won’t give up her files. The Chicago Headline Club believes she is right.

This comes as Medill continues to fight subpoenas for numerous student records – including grades – the Cook County state’s attorney’s office seeks in the re-trial of Anthony McKinney, who student journalists believe was innocent of murder. The next hearing on that case is scheduled May 26. McKinney’s public defender at the last court hearing served notice she will not use any of the evidence gathered by Medillians. However, the subpoenas still stand. The Headline Club firmly supports Medill, believing students are protected under Illinois Reporters Privilege Law. The same is applicable in Nielsen’s case.

Nielsen’s case is before Cook County Judge Marsha Pechman, who ordered Nielsen to preserve her records but also ruled she may challenge the subpoena. We hope the challenge will succeed, and that the courts in both cases will understand that the Reporters Privilege Law includes student journalists. And, we hope, that will be the end of the issue about student journalists.

For more information, Susan S. Stevens, CHC FOI vice president, susanstevens@aol.com

For more on the Nielsen case http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2011454442_prof27m.html

Nielsen has a blog at http://abovethefoldwwu.blogspot.com/

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