Judge To Decide If Blogger Qualifies For Newsperson’s Shield Law Protection

ELIZABETH – A Union County judge is scheduled to hold a hearing this week to determine whether a blogger is entitled to the protections of state law that prevents the news media from being forced to reveal their sources.

Tina Renna, president of the nonprofit Union County Watchdog Association, is trying to quash a subpoena from the Union County Prosecutor’s Office that would force her to appear in front of a grand jury.

In December, Renna published an article in which she claimed that the prosecutor’s office was “’looking into’ allegations that county employees took home generators during the Hurricane Sandy emergency.”

Renna expressed doubts that the prosecutor’s office investigation would bear fruit and wrote, “I’m prepared to give a list of names of employees who took generators home, as well as a list of witnesses to the State if our corruption busting former U.S. Attorney turned governor Christopher Chrisie [sic] is willing to take a stand against this local political corruption….As many as 16 names have been revealed to me by different sources.”

The prosecutor’s office is seeking those names, but Renna’s attorney Bruce Rosen says that “will provide a road map to her sources.”

Assignment Judge Karen Cassidy scheduled a plenary hearing on Thursday, Feb. 28, to determine if Renna qualifies for protection under New Jersey’s Newsperson’s Shield Law.

“This case is an important statement that bloggers who are also investigative journalists deserve the identical protection as journalists for traditional media,” said Rosen. “Anyone who has read the ‘County Watchers’ blog understands that although it frequently has a point of view, it has all the attributes of traditional news media, and is little different than op-ed columnists or news pages. As a matter of fact, there is more actual reporting going on in this website than in most small newspapers.”

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