Metroland fights court’s call for reporter to testify

Jennifer Stone, a reporter for This Week, a community newspaper in the Durham region of Ontario, was served a subpoena in July requiring she testify in a case she’s been covering and now her bosses are fighting the court order.

This Week, owned by Metroland Media Group Ltd., has filed a motion to quash the subpoena.

Stone was covering the case of a Peterborough, Ont. man facing charges related to the sexual assault of a 12-year old girl on Aug. 5. The reporter interviewed the man at the correction centre where he is being held. The Crown wants to be able to compare the stories the accused man told Stone, his girlfriend and police.

In a This Week story about the situation editor-in-chief Joanne Burghardt said:

“Establishing a trusting relationship with the parties involved in a criminal investigation — including the accused, the victim, their families, the lawyers, witnesses and police — is key to investigative reporting. The valuable relationships Ms. Stone has nurtured in this case would be severed, impeding our ability to provide the most insightful coverage and analysis of the trial possible.

“The role of the media as impartial observer is severely undermined when police rely on a journalist’s investigative legwork — in this case a jailhouse interview with the accused — to prove their case. The press is not an investigative arm of the law…

“We should all be concerned that the media’s ability to report the news could be impaired if government has too easy access to a journalist’s research materials, including the details of private conversations between a reporter and an accused. The resulting media chill could well see valuable news sources dry up.”

The trial is set to begin on Aug. 17.