Medill Ruling: Dark Day for Chicago Journalists

The Chicago Headline Club takes issue with a judge’s ruling that Northwestern University journalism students are not covered by the Illinois Reporter’s Privilege Act in their investigation of a murder conviction.

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Diane Cannon ruled that Northwestern must turn over to the State’s Attorney’s office about 500 e-mails that Medill School of Journalism students exchanged with former Innocence Project director David Protess. Cannon said the state law covers student journalists, but not those acting as investigators in a criminal case such as this one. The Headline Club strongly disagrees.

Cannon a couple of months ago ruled that Loyola University students working on the campus paper, the Phoenix, were covered by the Reporter’s Privilege Act. Assistant State’s Attorney Celeste Stack said the difference between the Medill case and the one involving Phoenix staffers is that the Loyola students were not working for an innocence project.

Cannon gave Northwestern a 10-day stay, time in which the e-mails need not be turned over while Northwestern decides whether to appeal. The Headline Club urges NU to appeal the judge’s decision.

For more, see the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune.

–Susan S. Stevens
–CHC president ex-officio