U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

St. Joseph journalist deposed after reporting on hospital

Incident Details

SCREENSHOT

A portion of the subpoena issued to St. Joseph News-Press reporter Clayton Anderson.

— SCREENSHOT
June 2, 2022

A regional medical center in St. Joseph, Missouri, subpoenaed St. Joseph News-Press reporter Clayton Anderson and a news director on June 2, 2022, after Anderson reported on an ongoing worker’s compensation lawsuit against the hospital.

On May 18, the News-Press published Anderson’s article on a discrimination and worker’s compensation lawsuit filed against Heartland Regional Medical Center, operating as Mosaic Life Care, by a former employee who sustained an injury while working as a medical technician and was later terminated from the hospital.

According to Kansas City NPR-affiliate KCUR, Anderson’s reporting referenced a spreadsheet showing the number of employees injured while working at the hospital and were later terminated or let go. A judge sanctioned Mosaic during the trial for discrepancies found in the spreadsheet.

In an email, Anderson told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that about two weeks after publishing the article he received a phone call from Mosaic Life Care asking for reporting materials and recorded interviews with sources. He said he declined to provide any information.

The hospital issued Anderson a subpoena for reporting materials and to sit for a deposition, arguing that Anderson and Steven Booher, the News-Press’ director of news content, received confidential information from the plaintiff’s lawyers. The law firm representing Mosaic Life Center did not respond to a request for comment.

In his deposition on June 14, Anderson answered questions about his motivation for reporting on the lawsuit. According to the transcript, reviewed by the Tracker, he denied having seen a confidential spreadsheet containing the names of former hospital employees.

The plaintiff’s lawyer E.E. Keenan, who was not representing Anderson but was present during the deposition, said he objected to the subpoena. “The news media should be free, under the First Amendment, to do their job without having to go through something like this,” Keenan said.

Anderson told the Tracker that he continues reporting on the lawsuit, and the subpoena has not impacted his objectivity.

“I think, if anything, this has just made me more aware of how business tend to work, but I am not spooked, and it has not impacted my news judgment,” he said.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected]