Don Craven, the executive director of the Illinois Press Association, says he's worried that if the prosecution succeeds in subpoenaing the students' records the Project could fail to exist altogether in the future.
"The practice impact of what the prosecution is doing in this case is undermining the work on this particular investigation and the Project as a whole," said Craven.
"If people are worried that a U.S. attorney could come knocking on your door to get your notes, how willing will these students be to continue doing their jobs, and how willing will people be to come talk to you about [cases like McKinney's]," said Craven.
While O'Brien awaits the Nov. 10 hearing to determine whether the subpoena will be thrown out or honored, he too says he's worried that Protess and his students may never again be able to do the work that has so far changed so many lives.
"This is a dangerous precedent if the state is entitled to get these materials," said O'Brien.