TRENTON – A Washington state woman who tried to invoke New Jersey’s shield law to avoid revealing her sources for what she wrote about a Freehold-based software company on an online message board is not eligible its protection, the state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.
Shellee Hale argued that she was preparing an article for her website, Pornafia, which never fully launched, when she wrote about Too Much Media Inc. in 2008 on a message board at the Oprano website.
Hale claimed to conduct a “detailed probe” of a 2007 security breach of a database owned by Too Much Media. She then posted allegations that suggested Too Much Media had profited from the security breach and threatened people who questioned the company’s conduct, citing anonymous sources.
The company filed a defamation suit against Hale, which has been on hold while the shield law case made its way through the courts. A Superior Court judge in Monmouth County ruled that the shield law did not apply to Hale in 2009, and an appellate court affirmed that decision in 2009.
New Jersey’s shield law protects journalists from having to reveal confidential sources. However, the court’s opinion said, “[online] forums allow people a chance to express their thoughts about matters of interest. But they are not the functional equivalent of the types of news media outlets outlined in the Shield Law. Neither writing a letter to the editor nor posting a comment on an online message board establishes the connection with ‘news media’ required by the statute.”
The court’s decision is online at http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/opinions/supreme/A710TooMuchMediavHale.pdf
Connect with NJTODAY.NET
Join NJTODAY.NET's free Email List to receive occasional updates delivered right to your email address!