Legal Rights of Academics and Journalists

9 July 2011 at 11:24 pm 5 comments

| Peter Klein |

Do academic oral historians have the same legal protections as journalists? No, according to the US Department of Justice:

With the filing, the U.S. government has come down firmly on the side of the British government, which is fighting for access to oral history records at Boston College that authorities in the U.K. say relate to criminal investigations of murder, kidnapping and other violent crimes in Northern Ireland. The college has been trying to quash the British requests, arguing that those interviewed as part of an archive on the unrest in Northern Ireland were promised confidentiality during their lifetimes.

This is from Inside Higher Ed via Zachary Schrag, who notes that the DOJ brief

suggests that the Boston College researchers are mere academics, and seizing information from them should be easier than prying it from reporters “because the Constitution and the courts have long recognized the unique role which news reporters play in our constitutional system. See, e.g., Branzburg, 408 U.S. at 681; New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 268-71 (1964). The limited protections afforded news reporters in the context of a grand jury subpoena should be greater than those to be afforded academics engaged in the collection of oral history.”

Lots of interesting stuff above about informed consent, academic freedom, confidentiality, etc.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Education, Methods/Methodology/Theory of Science. Tags: .

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jim Rose  |  10 July 2011 at 12:58 am

    Boston College researchers were foolish to think that they have some right to promise confidentiality to people confessing to crimes.

    Academic freedom is about security of job tenure, and no more.

    The rest of academic freedom is the same right of anyone else to speak their minds.

  • 2. FC  |  10 July 2011 at 12:02 pm

    That fact that these academics probably voted for and donated to Obama makes this particularly amusing.

  • 3. Joe Mahoney  |  10 July 2011 at 2:02 pm

    I do not understand why the limited protections afforded news reporters in the context of a grand jury subpoena should be greater than those to be afforded academics engaged in the collection of oral history. Perhaps it is to solidify the government’s desire to further expand their power and to limit countervailing forces. Why should a source for the American Economic Review or the Strategic Management Journal be afforded less protection than a source for the New York Times or Wall Street Journal?

  • 5. Jim Rose  |  11 July 2011 at 2:55 am

    Joe,
    One test for a reporter might be reporting to a mass audience with some immediacy.

    With blogging and so on, who is a news reporter these days?

    From the beginning of a mass media, the press has operated without constitutional protection for press informants from the grand jury subpoena, and the press has flourished

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