In an industry in which information is the ultimate commodity, a new dilemma that confronts the media world is whether the First Amendment protects news gatherers from sources who try to enforce promises of confidentiality. The debate raised in Cohen v. Cowles Media Co. pits the First Amendment freedoms of the press and speech against concepts of contracts and torts that are deeply rooted in our legal heritage. At least two reasons make promises of confidentiality important to the newsgathering profession. First, breaking a promise of confidentiality that has induced a source to provide information is dishonorable. Second, sources may disappear if it becomes known that the promises will not be kept.

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