Increase seen in subpoenas served on news media
VIRGINIA–A new report indicates that subpoenas issued against the news media are on the rise, as more than half of 900 news outlets responding to a survey reported being subpoenaed in 1993.
In early March, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press issued its third and final report on the incidence of subpoenas issued to the news media over three years, 1989, 1991 and 1993. The responding news outlets reported receiving a total of 3,519 subpoenas from government agencies, lawyers and private litigants.
The study reported that broadcasters were especially hard- hit with subpoenas in 1993. Of the 236 television stations responding to the survey, 81.8% reported being subpoenaed. The 664 newspapers responding to the survey reported a lower subpoena rate, with 41.6% receiving subpoenas.
However, the report indicated that newspapers were more likely to be subpoenaed for more sensitive information, such as a reporter’s testimony or confidential material. Additionally, newspapers contested subpoenas in court more often than television news outlets.
The report indicated that news outlets were likely to prevail when they mounted a court challenge to a subpoena. Judges quashed 81.2% of the challenged subpoenas, according to the report.
Outlets in Texas reported the largest number of subpoenas (504) in 1993, followed by California, Pennsylvania, Florida and New York. Alaska and New Hampshire reported one in each state.
A complimentary copy of the report, Agents of Discovery, is available to members of the news media. Additional reports are available for $3.75 each. Send requests to: The Reporters Committee, 1101 Wilson Blvd. Suite 1910, Arlington, VA 22209.