Twitter Facebook Google Plus Pinterest Storify
Society of Professional Journalists
Improving and protecting journalism since 1909

Advertise with SPJ
Advertise with SPJ

News and More
Click to Expand Instantly

SPJ News
Events and Deadlines
SPJ Blogs
Quill Online
Journalist's Toolbox

Stay in Touch
Twitter Storify Facebook Google Plus
RSS Pinterest Pinterest Flickr

More SPJ News
Press Notes
SPJ Blogs
SPJ Leads
The EIJ News
Press Notes
SPJ News
Open Doors
Geneva Conventions
Annual FOI Reports

Home > SPJ News > Letter to 5th District Judge James Shumate regarding KUTV Reporter Katie Baker

SPJ News
Latest SPJ News | RSS

Letter to 5th District Judge James Shumate regarding KUTV Reporter Katie Baker



Honorable James L. Shumate
Utah Fifth District Court
220 North 200 East
St. George, UT 84770

Dear Judge Shumate:

The Society of Professional Journalists writes to urge you to reconsider and vacate a contempt of court ruling against KUTV Reporter Katie Baker. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, the Society of Professional Journalists is the nationís largest journalism advocacy organization.

We believe that Ms. Baker should not be held in contempt of court for violating the decorum order. Ms. Baker had no knowledge of the court provision in question when she conducted the interview with the potential juror in the Warren Jeffs case. Further, there is no evidence that Ms. Baker was willfully or intentionally disobeying the Courtís order. Rather, she had no knowledge of the order at the time the interview was conducted.

The Courtís contempt order creates a worrisome precedent for other news reporters covering Utah courts. The precedent could make all reporters subject to contempt violations for unknowingly failing to comply with the provisions of court decorum orders.

Furthermore, we believe it is unconstitutional to punish Ms. Baker by ordering her to create a public service story. As noted First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams stated in an Associated Press story regarding the Court's ruling: ďThe notion that a judge can either compel a journalist to write a story or sit in judgment on a story to determine if it sufficiently serves the public interest is extremely disturbing.Ē

While the Court apparently did not order the story to be broadcast, this does not erase the First Amendment concerns. Ms. Baker is required, under penalty of contempt, to use her time and skill to produce a story. In addition, KUTVís resources, including the time of a photographer and producer, must be placed in the service of the court to satisfy this order. The First Amendment protects against compelled speech and government interference in the editorial process.

Ms. Baker made a mistake and should not be ďpunishedĒ for unintentionally violating the Courtís order. After being notified of her error, she immediately apologized and accepted responsibility for it. We appreciate your attention to this matter.


Clint Brewer, SPJ National President

David Cuillier, National FOI Chairman

Copyright © 1996-2015 Society of Professional Journalists. All Rights Reserved. Legal

Society of Professional Journalists
Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Center
3909 N. Meridian St.
Indianapolis, IN 46208
317/927-8000 | Fax: 317/920-4789

Contact SPJ Headquarters
Employment Opportunities
Advertise with SPJ