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Federal judge orders Sports Illustrated reporter to reveal sources

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials

    News Media Update         ALABAMA         Confidentiality/Privilege    

Federal judge orders Sports Illustrated reporter to reveal sources

  • In a libel suit brought by former University of Alabama football coach Mike Price, a judge ordered the magazine to reveal confidential sources.

Dec. 9, 2003 — A federal judge in Birmingham, Ala., ruled Monday that Sports Illustrated must reveal the unnamed sources used in an article about former University of Alabama football coach Mike Price.

Price filed a $20 million libel lawsuit against Time Inc. and Sports Illustrated writer and associate editor Don Yaeger for an article that appeared in the May 12, 2003 issue. According to an unnamed source, Yaeger reported that Price had sex with two women in a hotel room in Florida during an golf event last April. The University of Alabama fired Price shortly after the article appeared.

U.S. District Court Judge C. Lynwood Smith ordered Time to reveal the names of the confidential sources by Dec. 19. Price’s attorney, Stephen Heninger, had argued that the names were necessary so his client could prove that the information was false, according to a Dec. 9 article in The Birmingham News.

Gary Huckaby, the magazine’s attorney, argued that the First Amendment and the Alabama shield statute protect news organizations from being forced to reveal the names of confidential sources.

He says Time has not yet decided whether it will comply with the judge’s order.

Alabama’s shield law provides members of the news media — defined as those acting “on behalf of a newspaper, radio station or a television station” — an absolute privilege from compelled disclosure of sources. The law makes no mention of magazines.

Smith concluded that the law’s failure to mention magazines means that they are not covered under the law. Time had argued that the Alabama legislature meant for magazines to be covered by the shield law.

Time has not announced whether it will appeal the ruling.

(Price v. Time Inc.; Media Counsel: Gary Huckaby, Bradley, Arant, Rose & White LLP, Birmingham) KM

© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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