What do you mean we can't publish lies?
Ooops, now about that defamation suit Mr.Schiavo
Justices Refuse to Shield Reports of False Charges
The Supreme Court lets stand a ruling that a newspaper's truthful coverage isn't protected.
By David G. Savage
Times Staff Writer
March 29, 2005
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court refused Monday to shield the news media from being sued for accurately reporting a politician's false charges against a rival.
Instead, the justices let stand a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that a newspaper can be forced to pay damages for having reported that a city councilman called the mayor and the council president "liars," "queers" and "child molesters."
The case turned on whether the 1st Amendment's protection of the freedom of the press includes a "neutral reporting privilege." Most judges around the nation have said the press does not enjoy this privilege.
Lawyers for more than two dozen of the nation's largest press organizations, including Tribune Co., which publishes the Los Angeles Times, had urged the court to take up the Pennsylvania case and to rule that truthful news reports on public figures deserved to be shielded.
They said politicians have been hurling false and damaging charges at their rivals throughout American history. The press cannot do its duty to inform the public if it is not free to report what public figures say, they argued.
But the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said the press has never "enjoyed a blanket immunity" from being sued over stories that print falsehoods that damage a person's reputation. The law "has placed a burden (albeit a minimal one) on the media to refrain from publishing reports that they know to be false," the Pennsylvania court said.
The U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to take up the case sets no legal precedent. However, one lawyer involved in the dispute said the court's action "signals the demise of the neutral reporting privilege."
The case that reached the high court began 10 years ago when the Daily Local News in West Chester, Pa., printed a story titled "Slurs, Insults Drag Town Into Controversy." It reported that the city council in nearby Parkesburg had been torn apart by shouting matches and fistfights. The most outspoken councilman was William T. Glenn Sr.
In comments during a meeting and in an interview with a news reporter, Glenn referred to Mayor Alan Wolfe and Councilman James Norton as "liars" and a "bunch of draft dodgers." He also strongly suggested that they were homosexuals who had put themselves "in a position that gave them an opportunity to have access to children."
When asked to respond, Norton was quoted as saying: "If Mr. Glenn has made comments as bizarre as that, then I feel very sad for him, and I hope he can get the help he needs."
Later, the mayor and the councilman who were the targets of the charges sued both Glenn and the Daily Local News.
All that had to do was say none of these charges have any basis in fact or get a quote refuting them. Real simple.
So how much is Fox going to give Michael Schiavo?
And Nancy Grace better hope Michael Jackson is convicted.
posted by Steve @ 11:24:00 AM