Minnesota Paper Will Fight Order to Give Up Reporter’s Notes

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The Free Press of Mankato, Minn., plans to appeal a judge’s ruling that allowed authorities to subpoena a reporter’s notes and testimony, the paper’s managing editor said Thursday.

Prosecutors want information related to a Dec. 23 conversation between reporter Dan Nienaber and Jeff Skjervold while Skjervold was in an armed standoff with police officers. Officers had responded to a domestic disturbance at Skjervold’s home about a mile west of Amboy. During the hours-long standoff, Skjervold exchanged fire with officers before killing himself.

The paper published a report the following day, but prosecutors want to know whether the two talked about anything that wasn’t published. The Free Press declined, citing the state’s shield law, which protects journalists from supplying unpublished information without required legal hearings.

Blue Earth County Judge Norb Smith sided with authorities, but he also said the paper wouldn’t have to comply until the appeals process had run its course.

“We’re appealing the judge’s ruling because we feel it is not consistent with the statute or case law,” Managing Editor Joe Spear said. “We’re asking that prosecutors follow the law in requesting our notes. We’re asking the appeals court to require that of the prosecutors.”

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