Are Sources for Blog Posts Protected by News Shield Statutes?

If you send me a lead on a potential blog post, and someone later sues me over it, would I be required to divulge my source?  I hope to never find out, but the Supreme Court of Nevada partially considered it recently.

Toll v. Wilson concerned a blog that discussed current events in Storey County, Nevada.[1]  The blogger eventually wrote and published a story alleging that a County Commissioner did not live in the county, which would have disqualified the commissioner from office.  The commissioner sued for defamation per se.  To skip some of the procedural history, the blogger was deposed.

Toll said he asked people whether Gilman lived on the Mustang Ranch property and they told him he did not. Toll stated his sources told him that Gilman would leave the Mustang Ranch and head to Reno every night at 8:00 p.m. Another source allegedly told Toll that Gilman kept his possessions at a different property, where he truly lives. When Gilman asked who these sources were, Toll invoked the news shield statute under NRS 49.275 and refused to provide the identity of his sources. The deposition abruptly ended shortly thereafter.[2]

The district court granted a motion to compel and force disclosure of the sources.  While the blogger was “a reporter, he did not belong to a press association at the time of his comments. The court further held that Toll’s blog did not qualify as a newspaper because it is not printed in physical form and therefore the news shield statute did not afford him any protection.” On appeal the Supreme Court agreed the blogger was within the definition of a reporter.  However, the Supreme Court disagreed that a blog is not protected by the news shield statute merely because it is not physically printed.  “NRS 49.275 has not been amended since 1975. While the drafters of NRS 49.275 knew what a newspaper was, they likely did not contemplate it taking digital form. But just because a newspaper can exist online, it does not mean it ceases to be a newspaper.”  The Supreme Court refused to go further and determine whether this particular blog qualified as a newspaper, but merely reversed the physical printing requirement the district court read into the statute.

Is this blog protected? I don’t know and I don’t want to find out.


[1] Population slightly more than 4,000.

[2] 135 Nev. Adv. Op. 58 (2019).