The federal Privacy Protection Act protects journalists against most searches of newsrooms by law enforcement officials. The law generally prohibits federal, state and local law officials from searching for or seizing journalists’ “work product materials” and documentary materials. Work product materials are those created in anticipation of communication to the public and include impressions, conclusions, opinions or theories of the journalist. Documentary materials are obtained in the course of investigating a story and do not include a reporter’s opinions.
There are four exceptions to the rule against newsroom searches:
Every newsroom should have an immediately accessible file memorandum on how to handle a surprise search warrant.