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Cohen v. Cowles Media Co.


In the months after it was handed down, this ruling inspired other courts to distinguish between media content and media news-gathering when determining what was protected under the First Amendment. It also brought calls of alarm from academic, legal, and media observers. In law journals, some writers criticized the justices' reasoning regarding when and how to apply First Amendment protections. Certain media and communications critics feared that opening the door for confidential sources to legally enforce reporter-source agreements would have a "chilling effect" on the news-gathering process. It was predicted that journalists would be less likely to make use of anonymous source information, hindering the free flow of speech and information in the media. In 1994 a study of 106 large daily American newspapers was conducted to ascertain how the Cohen case affected their use of anonymous information. It found that most editors were aware of the case and the significance of the decision. It also discovered that as a result of the ruling most newspapers reviewed their confidential source policies, but less than 20 percent changed them. The study concluded that either editors did not see the Cohen decision as a threat, or they felt their existing policies would hold up well in court against the criteria set by it.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994Cohen v. Cowles Media Co. - Significance, The Sacred Trust Between Reporter And Source, The Press Is Subject To The Same Laws As All Citizens