Reporters Fighting the Good Fight | Letters | Chicago Reader

Reporters Fighting the Good Fight 

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Mike Miner's excellent column "A First Amendment Showdown" [Hot Type, September 12] skillfully captured all the major issues in our court case seeking to save the reporter's privilege in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana. Two additional points I'd like to make:

(1) In his opinion striking down the privilege, federal appellate judge Richard Posner failed to cite a source for his assertion that my fellow reporters/writers Robert C. Herguth, Flynn McRoberts, and I fought efforts to seize our notes and tapes because we wanted to make our anticipated book more "marketable." That's because there was no source. Posner is renowned as the father of the "theory of economics" school of jurisprudence. Perhaps he presumed we journalists shared his focus on economics; that journalists willing to go to jail rather than turn over notes or tapes must be motivated by principAL, not principLE. For the record, our motivation in fighting the effort to seize the tapes of our interviews with FBI mole David Rupert was to protect the principle that people should feel comfortable sitting down with a reporter or book writer, letting them click on the tape recorder, and then being able to talk freely for hours without worrying about the writer being ordered to turn those tapes over to the FBI, opposing counsel, or anyone else. Theoretically, some competing novelist could now listen to those tapes, try to ask follow-up questions of the tapes, and rush out an incomplete book before we finish ours. But we don't see a major threat to our book's marketability and never thought about that in taking our stand against turning over the tapes.

(2) The story quotes a lawyer asking Rupert about us "ghosting" the story. Webster's defines "ghostwriter" as "one who writes speeches, books, articles, etc, for another person who is named as or presumed to be the author." Our arrangement with Rupert has always been to write a book ABOUT him under our bylines, so reports of our death are greatly exaggerated.

Abdon M. Pallasch

Legal affairs reporter

Chicago Sun-Times

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