As this blogger demonstrated in the Moore v. Hoff "Blogosphere Trial of the Century," I will use every means at my disposal to resist giving up my sources. I would even consider going to jail to avoid giving up a source.
There are sensible exceptions. And emails that may provide evidence of a motive in a near fatal (or what may turn out to be fatal) double shooting incident certainly fall within that exception.
Repeatedly, I urged the source or sources in question to speak to the police instead of just to some blogger. In a way that may have been inconsistent with my own interest in writing gripping stories, I pointed out a so-called "anonymous source" can be quickly figured out if they are the only person in the world with access to certain facts and thus I didn't write any story. So is the person who provided the info really a source? If no story was written?
No? But, well, I would say YES. Somebody who comes to you in confidence is still a source.
OK, well, here's a journalism ethics problem for you. There has been a double shooting and emails in the possession of a blogger may now be (in fact, almost certainly are) evidence of motive in the shooting.
Consistent with the wishes of the source or sources, the emails were passed on to police months ago, but not with information about the names (and email addresses) of the sources involved.
But now there has been a shooting. And the emails are evidence of motive. Police don't just want the emails and images contained, they want the names and/or email addresses of the sources. No story was written from the emails, however.
Police are now saying if the emails are not turned over, they will indeed obtain the emails with a subpoena. They're being VERY nice about it, but they say the emails are evidence that could solve the crime and time is ticking away to solve it.
What does the blogger do?
I say the blogger creates an exception that says WHEN unsolicited emails are evidence of motive in a murder and WHEN police say they will get the emails one way or another with a SUBPOENA and WHEN everything EXCEPT the names was passed on to police months ago (all the way from AFGHANISTAN) and when NO STORY WAS WRITTEN FROM THE EMAILS, in those very special and limited circumstances when the police will undoubtedly get the emails sooner or later...
The blogger should turn over the emails. So the police can solve the crime quickly and get the shooter off the streets before he shoots somebody else.
And the blogger should say this to his readership:
if you have information about the shooting in question (the parties involved, the motives, etc.) you should come forward and talk to the police.
For one thing, you may look like you are involved if you don't.
You know who you are.
So. To review...
This blog will protect sources even at great personal cost, HOWEVER there is a murder and attempted murder with VIABLE THREAT OF SUBPOENA exception to the rule which covers unsolicited emails from potential sources.