When reporters are part of the story

Typically, reporters and news organizations are reluctant to turn over unpublished notes and recordings when the justice system demands they do so.

But in the case surrounding the death of a man in a fight outside a bar in May, the Fargo Forum is making an exception for reporter Archie Ingersoll, who witnessed the fight, took video at the scene, and wrote a first-person account of the attack.

In an article today, the Forum’s editor explained the decision to allow prosecutors and a defense attorney access to files.

“We rarely get subpoenaed for information gained while gathering the news,” Von Pinnon said in a statement. “Typically, we resist such efforts so the public and our sources confidently know we operate independently. For instance, we may interview people suspected of crimes and they may talk to us instead of talking to the police or prosecutors because we are neutral. We want to maintain that neutrality, that independence.”

“But in this unusual case, where a reporter actually witnessed the event, we didn’t want to obstruct the fact-finding process, either,” he said.

The Cass County state’s attorney says Ingersoll isn’t in a position to claim he’s protecting sources because there aren’t any.

Ingersoll was interiewed for two hours yesterday although a media attorney with him interjected when Ingersoll was asked “to speculate or to report what he’s learned since his initial reporting.”