‘USA Today’ Editor’s Column Defends Former Reporter

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By: Joe Strupp

USA Today Editor Ken Paulson spoke out in support of former reporter Toni Locy, who has been found in contempt of court for refusing to reveal a source for her coverage of the 2001 anthrax attacks, in a strong column Wednesday.

The piece, titled, “The real cost of fining a reporter,” criticizes federal efforts to fine Locy for refusing to testify in the civil case brought against the federal government by Stephen Hatfill, a former U.S. government researcher who had been described by federal investigators as a “a person of interest” in the case.

“Virtually every day in this country, in communities large and small, news organizations reveal misconduct or betrayal of the public trust by public officials,” Paulson wrote. “They base their reporting on their own investigations or, at times, those of law enforcement agencies.

“That’s why the decision by federal Judge Reggie Walton to hold former USA TODAY reporter Toni Locy in contempt of court for refusing to reveal her law enforcement sources in the anthrax-letters case is so disturbing,” he adds.

Walton had ordered Locy to pay fines for each day she refused to reveal her source, even barring her from accepting financial help from USA Today. That order was stayed this week, but could be reinstated.

“We don’t use a lot of anonymous sources at USA TODAY. We believe readers will trust us less if they don’t know where our information is coming from,” Paulson continued. “But there are times when confidential sources are needed to expose misconduct and mishandling of public business. A whistle-blower will not come forward if he runs the risk of having his identity known. Someone who can expose corruption will stay silent if he can be outed by a federal judge.”

The entire column can be found at:
http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2008/03/the-real-cost-o.html#more

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