Denver-based CNN journalist Jim Spellman says the total lack of media coverage of the legal travails faced by Fox News reporter Jana Winter for protecting her sources clearly demonstrates an anti-Fox News bias in the press.
Spellman claimed in a tweet that if Winter, who faces a subpoena and potential contempt of court charges for protecting her sources, worked for the New York Times instead of Fox News, the case would be garnering far greater exposure.
“Observation: If @janawinter, who may go to jail to protect sources, worked for @nytimes instead of @FoxNews the case would be huge,” Spellman tweeted Sunday night.
— jim spellman (@jimspellmancnn) April 7, 2013
The New York Times still has not reported on the subpoena against Winter, according to a search of the Times’ archives.
Winter, a reporter for FoxNews.com, faces potential jail time after she broke a story revealing that Aurora theater shooter James Holmes sent a package to a University of Colorado psychiatrist containing a notebook in which Holmes detailed his plans to carry out a mass murder. Winter cited unnamed law enforcement officials as sources. After Holmes’ attorneys argued that the unnamed law enforcement officials may have violated various gag orders, the court subpoenaed Winter’s notes and sources, and will decide by Wednesday whether Winter will be subpoenaed to testify in Holmes’ first-degree murder trial.
Winter has invoked the Colorado Shield Law to protect her sources, but Colorado judge William Sylvester, who is presiding over the Holmes case, can still jail Winter if he decides that the court’s interest in learning the source outweighs Winter’s journalistic interest in keeping it confidential.
“All this means is that if judges want to compel reporters to reveal sources, they can, and the so-called shield laws are meaningless,” wrote Fox News judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano.
CNN journalist Spellman, who notes that his Twitter views “are mine, not the bosses,” joins a short but growing list of mainstream media journalists and academicians who have criticized the subpoena against Winter, despite the fact that Winter works for a media outlet that the liberal establishment regularly scorns.
Fox is defending its reporter, with opinion pieces arguing that Winter’s plight “should send a chill down the spine of anyone who has ever read a piece of investigative journalism” and that the tepid reponse by the establishment media is “inconsistent with the fundamental premise of a free press.”
Michelle Zierler, director of the program in law and journalism at New York University Law School, told Fox News Saturday that Winter should not face jail time. “She was doing her job and she was doing it well. She broke a story and it was a national news story,” Zierler said.
University of Colorado at Boulder journalism professor Len Ackland also called the subpoena of Winter “absolutely troubling,” and said, “Such subpoenas clearly can keep journalists from doing their work as well as intimidating potential sources.”