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What Happens When the Media Fails to Protect a Confidential Source?

By Grant Law Office on April 1, 2010

This blog is a summary of the VLOG (Video Blog) located in the Wayne Grant video library titled “What Happens When the Media Fails to Protect Confidential Sources”. https://www.grantlawoffice.com/video-library.html.

Wayne Grant – GA Personal Injury, Medical Malpractice and Media Violations Attorney

Let me tell you a little story. I represented a career federal air marshal, who became aware of practices and procedures by the government that he believed posed a threat of danger to the flying public. He agreed to specifically speak out and be interviewed on a national news broadcast, because he thought that shedding some light on these practices and procedures might result in some change. And, it did.

In time, those practices and policies were eliminated, but what happened when the media company breached its promise to protect his identity? Well… he was fired! A twenty-year career went down the drain, and along with it, he suffered financial harm. He was unemployed for a period of time, and then ultimately was unable to get a comparable job in his field, as you might expect.

This note is about an instance where a media company breaches a promise of confidentiality. This particular situation involves a case where the media company agreed to protect the identity of a confidential source, and failed to do so. Why would someone speak out as a confidential source on a media story, usually because that person, by virtue of his or her position, becomes aware of conduct, practices, or procedures that are wrong and may endanger the public.

When a media company breaches a promise to protect a confidential source, they are responsible for all the harm that may result, as they well should be. They are getting a news-worthy story; a story that sells. Whether it is about public corruption, or dangers posed to the public, the people who speak out under those circumstances are heroes. They are not speaking out because they want fame or notoriety, to the contrary they want confidentiality, they want anonymity. Confidential sources are usually speaking out in the interest of public safety. Thus, their safety must come first, and the promises to safeguard their identity must be enforced.

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*Wayne Grant has been practicing law since 1979. Grant Law Office was founded in 2000.