MORE REPORTERS IN TROUBLE?….A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that the Cleveland Plain Dealer was withholding two stories of “profound importance” because they were based on illegally leaked documents. After watching what happened to Matt Cooper and Judith Miller, editor Doug Clifton figured there was a good chance that a judge would haul his reporters into court and demand to know the source of the documents, and the newspaper’s lawyers didn’t want to take the chance of being held in contempt over this.

Guess what? A couple of days ago an alt-weekly competitor ran the story. With the documents public there was no longer any reason to stay quiet, so the next day the Plain Dealer ran its own version of the story, which was based on a 115-page FBI affadavit alleging that Cleveland Mayor Michael White was at the center of “widespread corruption” at Cleveland City Hall. You can guess what happened next:

U.S. Attorney Gregory White said in the filing Thursday that it appeared from stories in Thursday’s Plain Dealer and this week’s Scene magazine that at least three documents a federal judge sealed were improperly disclosed.

Attorney White said Thursday night that the disclosure “has the potential for compromising an ongoing investigation.”

“Clearly somebody violated a court order here,” he said. “We have to address that in one way or another. We’re not just willing to walk away from it.”

Editor Clifton is now sorry he ever said anything about this. I don’t blame him. White hasn’t issued any subpoenas yet, but if he does let’s hope Ohio’s shield law is strong enought to protect reporters at both the Plain Dealer and the Scene.

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