Fox News reporter Jana Winter will report to court on Wednesday to learn whether she will be sent to jail for refusing to reveal her sources for an in-depth article on the Aurora, Colo. shooting by James Holmes. While Winter awaits her fate, CNN reporter Jim Spellman has accused the media of being biased and not covering Winter's story simply because she works for Fox News.
"Observation: If @janawinter, who may go to jail to protect sources, worked for @nytimes instead of @FoxNews the case would be huge," Spellman tweeted. His accusation has caused a great deal of buzz about the media's coverage of Winter's story, especially when compared to that of New York Times reporter Judith Miller.
If Winter "worked for mainstream newspapers or CNN, I think the case would have been covered. There's a certain reluctance," Miller, who was jailed for 85 days for refusing to name sources, told BuzzFeed.
At the heart of the case is Winter's reluctance to name several law enforcement sources as well as one source quoted as saying that shooter James Holmes' personal notebook was "full of details about how he was going to kill people." Defense attorneys want to know exactly who told Winter about the notebook and its precise details.
Winter was subpoenaed by the lawyers, and on April 1, Judge Carlos Samour Jr., heard arguments from both sides about whether to imprison Winter if she refuses to name sources.
"Samour himself stated that the subpoena to Winter presented her with a 'Hobson's Choice,'" Fox News reported. "If forced to testify, Winter would either reveal her confidential sources in the nation's highest profile trial– perhaps destroying her career as an investigative reporter– or spend up to six months in jail."
"We hope that the appellate court will decide our request for a stay soon so that Jana is not required to return to Colorado until after her appeal is decided," Winter's attorney Dori Ann Hanswirth, told Fox News. "New York's strong commitment to protecting confidential sources is at stake, and Jana shouldn't have to travel out of state to testify before a New York appeals court has the chance to say whether the law requires her to do."
"Sources won't tell journalists anything if they can't be guaranteed confidentiality," Colorado State University Journalism Professor Patrick Plaisance added. "That would have a chilling effect. That ability [to protect sources] needs to be upheld."