L.A. Times Editor John Carroll is directing the reporting staff to avoid identifying confidential sources in their written notes and emails on the company computers. The problem is that those files may be subpoenaed or turned over to future prosecutors by spineless publishers and Pearlstinian editors. Editor & Publisher canvassed some other papers and found the idea catching on in the wake of the Judith Miller jailing. That's not a surprise. Some of the more paranoid reporters on sensitive beats make it a habit to destroy their notes so there will be nothing for zealous prosecutors and lawyers to subpoena. For most journalists and sources, the most danger posed by the Miller episode doesn't come from the very rare cases that touch on national security or high legal principle. The trouble is prosecutors, defense lawyers and plaintiff's lawyers in civil cases (and prosecutor-led grand juries) going on fishing expeditions, out of convenience or just to see what they might find. It wasn't that long ago that Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley raided the offices of the Metropolitan News-Enterprise, forcing reporters out of the building so the premises could be searched for records relating to a corruption probe in the city of South Gate.
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