Court: Newspapers Can Be Sued For Revealing Source

1991

Cohen v. Cowles Media Co. establishes that newspapers are subject to liability for breach of contract claims when the identity of a confidential source is revealed. During a Minnesota election, political activist Dan Cohen gave reporters court documents about a candidate after they promised him anonymity. In subsequent articles, Cohen was identified as the source of the documents and fired. He sued the two newspapers, alleging fraudulent misrepresentation and breach of contract. The Court rejects the newspapers’ claim to the right to publish Cohen’s name, saying that in this context, the First Amendment offers no special protection.