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Jailed Reporter Vanessa Leggett to Give Keynote for W&L’s Ethics Institute

Vanessa Leggett, a lecturer and freelance writer who was jailed in 2001 for her refusal to betray confidential sources for her book, will be the keynote speaker for Washington and Lee University’s 44th Institute of Ethics in Journalism. The talk is on Friday, Nov. 2, at 5:30 p.m. in the Stackhouse Theater of Elrod Commons.

The title of Leggett’s talk, which is free and open to the public, is “Subpoenas, Sources, and Jail: Journalism in the 21st Century.”

After 168 days in jail, Leggett was released when the grand jury’s term expired and the government was forced to release her. Hers was the first subpoena the Justice Department issued to a writer in 10 years. Since then, the Justice Department has served a flood of subpoenas on numerous news organizations.

Leggett was able to maintain agreements with sources, refusing to name them or to surrender confidential material. Her stance earned her several awards from a number of organizations, including the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas’ James Madison Award and the Society of Professional Journalists’ First Amendment Award.

She has taught literature, criminology and writing at the University of Houston-Downtown’s English Department, Criminal Justice Department and Professional Writing Division. She has given talks to the New York City Bar Association, the National Press Club and the FBI Academy’s Behavioral Science Unit, among others.

This annual event is sponsored by the Knight Program in Journalism Ethics and the University’s Department of Journalism and Mass Communications.