Reporters shouldn't turn over notes and video outtakes lightly
The video shows the track of blood in the parking lot leading into the Wilton CVS and contains an interview with the clerk who saw the stabbing victim and called 911.
Good work, McCarty.
Next thing I know, I’m handed a subpoena (as head of the newsroom) commanding me (yes, the subpoena includes the phrase, all in capital letters, “WE COMMAND YOU … ”) to appear before the Saratoga County Grand Jury with a copy of the video, including all out takes.
Anyone can see the video on The Saratogian website. But the outtakes? Um, I don’t think so.
A journalist should not impede an investigation or a court proceeding. And sound case law precludes a news organization from being forced to disclose material that it gathers. Exceptions to the rule would be based on this reasonable three-prong test: that the items or information sought is highly material to the case, is critical to the litigant’s claim, and is not otherwise available.
The Saratogian argued that the material sought by the prosecution did not pass that test, and the demand was modified to require only a disk of the video as it appears online.
That was a fair solution. Reporters routinely take more notes and more video footage than they end up publishing. It would be an unnecessary and excessive intrusion for reporters to be expected to work under the cloud of having to turn over their notes or outtakes. Nothing we could have provided would have helped or hindered the case.
Being subpoenad for video was a new experience for us here at The Saratogian. The first time I received a subpeona, I was a rookie reporter ordered to appear before the grand jury for something I wrote. My publisher at the time hired an attorney, a move that blossomed into a relationship (between the publisher and the attorney) and a 30-plus-year marriage.
No romance is in the cards this time around. The subpoena was withdrawn — and my current publisher is already married.