BGA and Illinois Press Association Defend NPR Illinois Reporters' First Amendment Rights

In a letter to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, the BGA's David Greising and the IPA's Sam R. Fisher say the university's Title IX policy is at odds with journalists' right to protect confidential sources.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus (Sun-Times file photo)

The BGA and the Illinois Press Association sent a letter to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, asking the board to take action to protect the First Amendment rights of journalists at WUIS FM-91.9.

The university, which holds the NPR license for the station, has told WUIS journalists that they cannot protect the anonymity of sources who say they were victims of sexual misconduct. According to the university, the journalists are “responsible employees” under federal Title IX guidelines. That means they are required to report those claims — including the identity of the complainant — to the university’s Title IX office. 

The U of I notified WUIS of this position after NPR Illinois and ProPublica reported on several cases in which the university allowed employees who were found to have violated the sexual misconduct policy to leave with no blemish on their record, sometimes with pay.

Requiring journalists to reveal anonymous sources violates their First Amendment right to gather and disseminate the news. It also discourages victims from coming forward, which is counter to the intent of Title IX.

BGA President and CEO David Greising and IPA President and CEO Sam R. Fisher asked trustees to direct the university to exempt journalists from this requirement. The letter is shared below.