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State Drops Subpoena Against WFSU

Lynn Hatter, WFSU
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

UPDATE--Florida's Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater has withdrawn the subpoena against WFSU after it caused an uproar, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

The CFO's office wanted audio and notes from Tallahassee-based public radio station reporter Lynn Hatter, who reported on private insurance groups that were presenting information about the federal health care exchanges. A spokesman for the CFO said the subpoena was dropped after the issue was discussed with Hatter, the Sentinel reports. 

Here is the earlier story:

An epic battle over freedom of the press is unfolding in Tallahassee, where state officials have subpoenaed audio recordings and notes from WFSU public radio reporter Lynn Hatter concerning an investigative story on health-insurance enrollment.

Florida's Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater subpoenaed the materials when Hatter declined to turn them over in a public-records request, as Aaron Deslatte, Tallahassee Bureau Chief for the Orlando Sentinel, reported.

The situation is unusual in that WFSU is part of Florida State University, which as a part of state government would theoretically be subject to the public records law. In the Sentinel story, the First Amendment Foundation said the radio station should be protected by the shield law that applies to media organizations.

The Florida Channel
Lynn Hatter, WFSU reporter/producer

Atwater issued the subpoena at the request of attorneys for FSU, according to Deslatte's story.

The story that started all this was "Groups Unaffiliated With 'ObamaCare' Try to Cash In," which was aired and posted on Oct. 24. It said that a group calling itself "The Obamacare Enrollment Team," which made a presentation at a Tallahassee church, appeared instead to represent private insurance agents. They offered a more narrow list of choices than is available on the website, Hatter reported.

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.