Newspaper refuses to utilize leaked documents in article

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Sunday, July 10, 2005

On Saturday, Doug Clifton, editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, said that the newspaper is trying to find a way to publish two "profoundly important" news stories, without the use of documents he states were illegally leaked to staff reporters. On legal advice, the newspaper was withholding the stories out of fear that reporters might be jailed. Clifton did not further characterize the subject of the investigative stories.

"Basically, we have come by material leaked to us that would be problematical for the person who leaked it," Mr. Clifton said in a New York Times telephone interview. "The material was under seal or something along those lines."

A newspaper industry trade journal quoted Mr. Clifton saying, "The reporters say, 'Well, we're willing to go to jail, and I'm willing to go to jail if it gets laid on me,'" he said, "but the newspaper isn't willing to go to jail. That's what the lawyers have told us. So this is a TIME Inc. sort of situation," according to Editor & Publisher.

The TIME Inc. reporter Matt Cooper, who along with New York Times correspondent Judith Miller, both long held out against a contempt of court order to name their sources in the outing of Valerie Plame. Cooper agreed Wednesday to testify, but it is unclear if he has the consent of his source, and Miller was sentenced to jail for refusing to cooperate.

Although Time Inc. was not specifically pursued by special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald in the case, they agreed to release Cooper's reporting notes.

The Plain Dealer has the highest circulation in Ohio and was listed last year as the nation's 21st largest daily paper.