Missouri attorney general Eric Schmitt wants emails from University of Missouri School of Journalism professors about the institution’s partnership with PolitiFact, The Columbia Missourian reported.
The attorney general’s office requested the emails over the summer using the state’s sunshine law, and the newspaper discovered the records request via a request of its own. The university has not yet turned over the emails, which are going through a standard legal review, the Missourian reported.
Schmitt, who has been attorney general since 2019, is currently running for a seat in the U.S. Senate.
The Columbia Missourian, which the university supports financially, began working with PolitiFact in 2015. Schmitt’s office is seeking emails from a PolitiFact editor and two professors who oversaw the partnership that include terms such as “fact-checking,” “fake news” and “Truth-O-Meter,” among others. The professors also serve as editors at the newspaper.
The newspaper reported that the broader search terms could turn up emails “related to the reporting process, including communications about newspaper sources and story drafts.”
“There are some real concerns when it comes to revealing the work product of journalists,” Mike Hiestand, a senior counsel at the Student Press Law Center, told the newspaper. “I think this raises some serious legal questions.”
Through another records request, the paper learned that the University of Missouri system initially identified more than 5,000 emails that fell under the search terms. That was before Schmitt’s office amended the request to exclude newsletters.
Schmitt’s office declined to say what the office is looking for, according to the Missourian.