What kind of materials is Jersey?
N.J. Stat. § 2A:84A-21a
a. "News media" means newspapers, magazines, press associations, news agencies, wire services, radio, television or other similar printed, photographic, mechanical or electronic means of disseminating news to the general public.
b. "News" means any written, oral or pictorial information gathered, procured, transmitted, compiled, edited or disseminated by, or on behalf of any person engaged in, engaged on, connected with or employed by a news media and so procured or obtained while suchrequired relationship is in effect.
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h. "In the course of pursuing his professional activities" means any situation, including a social gathering, in which a reporter obtains information for the purpose of disseminating it to the public, but does not include any situation in which a reporter intentionally conceals from the source the fact that he is a reporter, and does not include any situation in which a reporter is an eyewitness to, or participant in, any act involving physical violence or property damage.
Who is Covered?
New Jersey's shield law uses a complicated series of definitions to describe who the law protects. Despite the complexity, a reasonable reading suggests that the law will protect most people who bring news to the public regularly, including amateur and non-traditional journalists publishing through online media.
First, to be covered, you must be a "person engaged on, engaged in, connected with, or employed by news media for the purpose of gathering, procuring, transmitting, compiling, editing or disseminating news for the general public or on whose behalf news is so gathered. . . ." You may perform a variety of different roles. You need not be a writer - any role in "gathering, producing, transmitting, compiling, editing, or disseminating" is sufficient for protection. You need not be a paid employee of a news source to be covered. However, you must somehow be "connected with" the "news media." Therefore, whether you are protected hinges on what "news media" means. That definition is discussed below.
What does "news media" mean? The law defines it to mean "newspapers, magazines, press associations, news agencies, wire services, radio, television or other similar printed, photographic, mechanical or electronic means of disseminating news to the general public." Importantly, "news media" is not limited to the institutional press or "mainstream media" - as long as you have the requisite relationship with one of the mediums it lists, you are covered. The definition of "news media" encompasses a wide variety of media. Since it covers electronic sources that are similar to the traditional sources it lists, it should cover periodicals online, Web radio, regular podcasts, and the like. It may cover blogs, since they are analogous to electronic newspapers or magazines. However, the law may not cover electronic media that are not analogous to the traditional sources listed, such as bulletin boards and non-updated Web pages. Future cases will hopefully clarify the shield law's application to online publishing and non-traditional journalism.
What Information is Protected?
New Jersey's shield law protects both the identity of your sources and unpublished information you gather in the process of obtaining news.
Identity of sources
The shield law protects not only the identity of a source, but also any information that would lead to identification. You do not have to promise a source confidentiality in order to protect his/her identity under the shield. Publishing some information provided by a source does not eliminate the law's protection of the source's identity.
The shield law protects, with certain exceptions, information gathered for purposes of dissemination to the public. Publishing a story only eliminates protection for the information that is actually published. The shield law excludes from coverage your first-hand eyewitness accounts or your participation in physical violence or property damage.