It goes beyond the “little guy”

In the battle to continue, as the Chicago Headline Club’s motto says, “protecting the public’s right to know” it seems as though some folks think it’s up to the “big boys” to do that.

Just ask Will County Circuit Judge Gerald R. Kinney.

He’s the judge who is demanding that Joe Hosey, a reporter for AOL’s Patch in Joliet reveal his sources involving a police investigation and autopsy reports for a double murder in Joliet.

It seems that Kinney may have thought he had an “easy target” in Hosey because, after all, it’s just the Patch.  It’s just a local reporter.

Judge Kinney – it’s just journalism.  Hosey was doing his job and found and tapped into sources who gave him the information he needed to develop a credible news story.  Yes, credibility – now that’s a novel idea – even in Joliet.

Maybe Kinney thought that his order would remain tucked away in Will County and Hosey would bow to his command.

Surprise.  Much in the way that the scales of justice don’t waver from county to county, neither does the need for the media to protect the public’s right to know.

We’re a tough crowd, judge.  We’re a passionate crowd, judge.

Which is why the Chicago Headline Club jumped to Hosey’s aid when it released a statement calling for Kinney to rescind his order.  The Headline Club’s statement was short and to the point, saying “The ability of a journalist to protect his/her sources when necessary is a crucial tool in the collection of information to establish facts and verify truth.”  The statement then goes on, to no surprise, to call for the reversal of the order.

But the case of Joe Hosey, a one-man band for Patch in Joliet didn’t stop there. On Monday, the Society of Professional Journalists tossed its support for Hosey by, as the Headline Club did, calling for Kinney to rescind his order.

In its statement, SPJ said “No one should live under the threat of imprisonment just for doing his job — reporting the truth…”  adding that “…The Illinois statute protecting reporters and giving journalists a privilege is well established; it has been on the books for 31 years. It says that a reporter can be stripped of the privilege only when “all other sources of information have been exhausted” and the “disclosure of the information sought is essential to protection of the public interest involved.”

SPJ President David Cuillier said “We, as an organization of 8,000 journalists and journalism supporters, cannot stand by and let this happen…Society depends on leakers. We rely on people providing us information that we care about, even if the government doesn’t want it out — even if the information is inconvenient.”  The full release and statement can be found at SPJ Hosey Release and statement.

So what lies ahead?  Kinney is schedule to rule on Hosey’s fate on Friday.   Will it be the Lady or the Tiger?  Will Kinney knock down the public’s right to know simply because a reporter was doing his job well?

It would be interesting to see what Kinney would have done if Hosey was on staff at the Tribune, the Sun-Times, NBC or the AP.

But you know those little guys are easy targets, especially in big courtrooms.

They may be little guys, but protecting the public’s right to know and keeping the doors of Freedom of Information open doesn’t come in sizes.  It’s one size fits all.