It’s clear now that lawyers (particularly for the government) are going to keep slapping reporters with subpoenas to reveal information about anonymous sources as long as there isn’t a federal shield law in place. And it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen any time soon. In recent weeks, the issue has continued to flare as San Francisco Chroniclereporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance William have repeatedly been dragged into court by lawyers demanding information on a leak in the Barry Bonds steroids case. Also, this weekend, S.F. vlogger Josh Wolf lost an appeal of a contempt ruling for refusing to hand over unaired video footage to a federal grand jury.
But leave it to the New York Times to apply some creative legal energy to the problem. They still might not be able to keep another Judy Miller out of the slammer for protecting the likes of “Scooter” Libby, but a new seminar is suggesting (among other things) ways for reporters to minimize their paper trail and hide phone records. “With this crazy environment, with subpoenas and so on, there is this feeling that you have to act like a drug dealer or a Mafioso,” said Times reporter David Barstow.
So trash those disposable phones and erase those notes. Remember Timesmen (and women): When the Feds try and get at you, drop it like it’s hot.