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SPLC media law presentation: Reporter’s privilege


Students will be exposed to Reporter’s Privilege, its history and its application to scholastic journalists. The SPLC slideshow addresses source confidentiality as well as what to do if journalists are asked to relinquish notes, photos, etc. by someone in an official capacity. Additionally, source terminology is discussed.


  • Students will learn the basics of Reporter’s Privilege.
  • Students will apply these basics to a prompt that opens and closes class.
  • Students will define and analyze the terminology of types of on-the-record and confidential sources.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.8 Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning (e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court majority opinions and dissents) and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy (e.g., The Federalist, presidential addresses).


50 minutes


Journal prompt: Reporter’s Privilege journal

Slideshow: Reporter’s privilege

Slideshow with teacher notes

Handout: Reporter’s Privilege student worksheet

Teacher key: Reporter’s Privilege student worksheet

Press Rights Minute #10 – Open Meetings Act

Lesson step-by-step

1. Introduction — 5 minutes

Part 1: Journal (suggestion: you should project prompt if possible):

You’re on your way to the local theater for the latest production of “Oklahoma.” While going to the theater you realize quite a bit of commotion is coming from the side of the theater. Your journalist radar turns on and you run to the sound. You soon realize you are in the middle of a riot. The theater patrons are outraged because the theater has substituted “Oklahoma” with the local preschool’s play “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.” You grab your camera and start shooting. You capture all kinds of behavior, such as water bottles being thrown at police, patrons trying to tear down the kiosk, etc. The police realize you have been taking pictures and ask for your film. What do you do and why?

Part 2: And now, a few days later, your school board goes into executive session concerning the student body’s involvement in the demonstration. You try to attend, but you quickly are turned away from the meeting. Is the person who refused you access in the right?

Ask students to keep their responses until the end of the hour.

2. Slideshow — 35 minutes

Go through the SPLC slideshow. Use the teacher notes as talking points for instruction. Some student worksheet questions are exclusively from the teacher notes section.

(Hand out student worksheet that students will complete during the slideshow.)

3. Press Rights Minute audio clip — 5 minutes

Play the audio clip. Following the clip, please ask students to note how this fits with the earlier prompt.  

4. Exit slip — 5 minutes

After students have completed the slideshow, as students to revisit their answer to today’s journal prompt. Ask them to answer the following:

Using what we talked about today, have you changed your mind about your journal writing from the beginning of the hour? Why or why not? Please include what you would change and why.

Also, include what you’ve learned about access to school board meetings. Should the reporter have been turned away from the meeting?