FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ISSUE: James Madison Freedom of Information Award winners fight the power
Student Name Withheld After a photojournalism student at San Francisco State University snapped photographs at the scene of a fatal shooting in Bayview-Hunters Point, police skipped the usual process of using a subpoena to seek evidence, and went straight into his home with a search warrant to seize this student's work. But with the help of his attorney, the student quashed the warrant, arguing California's shield law prevents law enforcement from compelling journalists to disclose unpublished information. He won, and the case served to demonstrate that the shield law should apply to nontraditional journalists.
The student is being recognized because he resisted the warrant rather than caving into the demands of law enforcement. Invoking the shield law in such cases prevents reporters from being perceived as extensions of law enforcement by the communities they report on, enabling a free exchange of information. The student remained anonymous in the aftermath of the shooting because he feared for his life. Based on his ongoing concerns, NorCal SPJ and the Guardian have agreed to honor his wish to have his name withheld.