Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Somebody Should Slap that Journalism Student

By Robert Gammon
Tue, May 19, 2009 at 11:57 AM

A San Francisco State University photojournalism student who witnessed a homicide, and may have even taken photos of the killing, is refusing to talk with police, according to the Chron. The student, whom the paper does not identify, has invoked California's journalism shield law that protects journalists from revealing information to authorities. The student apparently is staying mum out of fear for his safety and because he doesn't want to become "a shill" for police. But the student appears to be seriously misguided. The shield law is designed to allow journalists to protect their sources, and should not be used as an excuse by a scared student who witnessed a homicide and is now trying to thwart justice.

Out society's obsession about not being a "snitch" is already bad enough without journalists-in-training deciding to pervert a good law because they're afraid of speaking out. We sympathize with the fear of being targeted if you identify a killer, but it's one of the basic tenets of journalism to expose the truth - not shield it. The student and his advisers at San Francisco State have got it backwards. They have an ethical and moral responsibility to be good citizens, good role models, and not hide behind a law that's designed to allow whistleblowers to talk to reporters anonymously.

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