This article was published in the January 7, 2008, edition of The New York Observer
When Jim Stewart stepped down from CBS News in November 2006 after some 16 years of reporting on a range of topics for the Tiffany Network, the longtime Washington-based correspondent retired to the warmth of Florida. Now, depending on a judge’s ruling in an ongoing case, Mr. Stewart could be spending a part of his golden years in a much less sunny position—namely in contempt of a federal court.
In legal documents filed on the eve of the holidays, Mr. Stewart, citing promises of confidentiality, continued to defy a judge’s order to reveal the names of his sources for a series of reports he produced in 2003 for CBS News about the F.B.I.’s investigation into the domestic anthrax attacks of 2001.
If U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton decides in the coming months to hold Mr. Stewart in civil contempt for his defiance, the case, which lately has been unfolding largely under the news radar, could become one of the more tortured—and high-profile—media soap operas of the new year.
And, in the wake of the Valerie Plame affair, in which The New York Times’ Judith Miller served jail time for her own refusal to give up sources, it could offer additional ammunition to advocates of a federal shield law—which would increase journalists’ legal right to protect their sources in court. Norman Pearlstine, the former editor in chief of Time Inc. who earlier this year wrote a book about confidential sources, media law and his pivotal role in the Valerie Plame affair, told NYTV that Mr. Stewart’s case “is a perfect example of why we need a federal shield law.” READ MORE...