Reporter Privilege Statute Introduced

SALEM (AP)—A bill to give news reporters a measure of privilege in protecting news sources was introduced today by Representative Keith D. Skelton (D-Eugene).

A similar bill is expected to be introduced later in the session by Senators Ted Hallock (D-Portland) and Vernon Cook (D-Gresham).

The bill Skelton introduced is the one agreed upon by the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association (ONPA) last year. The proposed statute is taken from Northwestern University Law Review.

“This measure is intended to give only a qualified privilege. . . . It gives to a court of competent jurisdiction the right to decide whether the public interest would be better protected if disclosure should be compelled by the court,” Skelton said.

“Standards are established which the court must follow in making its decision. In addition, where an order is made which compels the reporter to reveal his sources, that order may be appealed into a higher tribunal,” he said.

If the bill becomes law, it would give qualified privilege protection to such reporters as Annette Buchanan, the University student editor who was found in contempt of court last year in Lane County.
She has appealed the case to the Oregon Supreme Court.

ONPA is filing a legal brief with the Supreme Court in support of Miss Buchanan. Skelton is ONPA’s attorney.

Miss Buchanan’s attorney, Arthur C. Johnson of Eugene, commented on Skelton’s proposal: “I have not seen the bill but if it is patterned after that in Northwestern University Law Review, I would strongly favor such legislation. I do not feel it would curb the power of the court or in any way interfere with the administration of justice but would have the effect of free communication to legitimate newsgathering agencies.”

Neither bill would have any legal effect on the status of Miss Buchanan’s appeal.

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