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Litigation: Is knowing a reporter’s confidential source knowing too much?

05 July 2012

Inside Counsel

During last week’s pilot episode of HBO’s new series “The Newsroom,” star cable news anchor Will McAvoy came face-to-face with a scoop on one of the biggest news stories in recent memory: According to sources unearthed by McAvoy’s brand new senior producer, what appeared to be a run-of-the-mill explosion on an oil rig off the Gulf Coast was actually the beginning of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill—and was likely not a freak accident, but could be blamed on private industry and lax enforcement of federal regulations. The problem? All of the producer’s sources were confidential. McAvoy thereby found himself in a position all too familiar to editors across the country: Should he rely on his reporter, or did he himself need to know the identities of the sources (who ostensibly had been promised that their names would never be revealed to anyone)?

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