Two more journalism organizations have joined the swell of criticism to a Will County judge’s decision to hold Patch editor Joe Hosey in contempt of court for not revealing a confidential source.
The Illinois News Broadcasters Association, Radio Television and Digital News Association and National Press Club each released statements criticizing Judge Gerald Kinney for not acknowledging the Illinois shield law, which has been in effect since 1982.
“If Kinney prevails, then there are no guarantees,” said Bob Roberts, WBBM News broadcaster and Freedom of Information Chair of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association. “The shield law becomes an empty shell. States replicate each other, so if you gut the shield law here it will start happening in other states soon.”
On Sept. 20, Kinney ordered that Hosey be held in “minor direct criminal contempt” for not giving up the source of investigative reports that detailed the grisly Hickory Street murders in Joliet. Hosey's prescribed punishment for maintaining confidentiality was $1,000 fine, $300 in fines for every day he does not divulge the source from Aug. 29 on up to 180 days and then incarceration.
Patch Media has appealed the ruling and the fines have been placed on hold pending the appeal.
The INBA board unanimously passed a resolution condemning Kinney’s action and supporting Hosey at a September board meeting. All attendees at a subsequent INBA convention also supported the resolution. The RTDNA backed the INBA’s resolution shortly thereafter. The Illinois Press Association also followed suit in support of Hosey, according to Jennifer Fuller, immediate past INBA president and broadcaster on WSIU Public Radio in Carbondale.
“Nobody is saying no here,” Roberts said. “It’s far bigger than one guy working for a news outlet in the Joliet area. It’s awful when people are penalized for doing their job. The founding fathers knew the 1st Amendment shouldn’t go down easily, even if it caused outrage and anguish. That’s why they wrote and wrote it first. They wanted a free exchange of ideas. They wanted people to find the news and report it fairly and accurately and that’s what Joe does.”
Fuller said Hosey’s case and Kinney’s ruling are further proof of a need for a federal shield law for reporters. The chilling effect could be seen in reporters unwilling to use information from unnamed sources, but also it could dissuade people from speaking to reporters in the future, Fuller said.
“Journalists are banding together because this is wrong,” Fuller said. “We support Joe Hosey and we all deserve this protection.”
The National Press Club criticized Kinney's ruling, and cited Illinois' shield law as reason against the contempt order.
The Society of Professional Journalists, as well as its Chicago branch the Chicago Headline Club, also have made statements against Kinney’s ruling and in support of Joe Hosey.
Read the associations’ statements and coverage:
- Illinois News Broadcasters Association
- Radio Television Digital News Association
- National Press Club
- Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
Related Patch Coverage:
- Patch's Legal Argument in Favor of Reporter Privilege
- Patch Editor Faces $300-A-Day Fines and Jail Time for Protecting Source
- Where a Judge's Right to Watch Porn and a Reporter's Right to Protect Sources Collide
- Nightmare on
Hickory Street coverage