To answer this week’s question, “what are the constraints on free speech and First Amendment for the news industry?” I provided an example of a libel lawsuit brought by JK Rowling against Daily Mail in which case Daily Mail is found guilty (Hare, 2014). While studies have shown that the media is usually protected in the court against libel laws so that they may expose corruption and incompetence of public figures, the first amendment constrains them from publishing libelous articles with malicious intent or reckless disregard for the truth (Smith, 1983). In this example, Daily Mail was found guilty for publishing a libelous article with reckless disregard for the truth.
After my presentation I spoke with the class about whether I thought public figures needed more protection and whether they thought libel laws would change over time. We talked about the difficulties between some media, especially tabloids, taking advantage of having more lenient rules when it comes to public figures vs the public’s right to know and the media’s role as a watchdog, especially now with President Trump. We concluded that libel laws will not change in the foreseeable future and that reporters should just write ethically and follow the social responsibility model.
Hare, K. (2014, January 31). Daily Mail removes story after J.K. Rowling sues for libel. Retrieved February 19, 2017, from https://www.poynter.org/2014/
daily-mail-removes-story- after-j-k-rowling-sues-for- libel/237883/
Naylor, B. (2016, March 24). Donald Trump Wants To 'Open Up' Libel Laws So He Can Sue News Outlets. Retrieved February 19, 2017, from http://www.npr.org/2016/03/24/
471762310/donald-trump-wants- to-open-up-libel-laws-so-he- can-sue-news-outlets
New York Times Company v. Sullivan. (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved February 19, 2017, from https://www.oyez.org/cases/
Riley, S. G. (1982). Fighting Back: What Redress Media have against Frivolous Libel Suits. Journalism Quarterly, 59(4), 566-72.
Smith, B. F. (1983). Montana Law Review [Review of The Rising Tide of Libel Litigation: Implications of the Gertz Negligence Rule]. 44(1), 3rd ser. Retrieved February 20, 2017, from http://scholarship.law.umt.
Straubhaar, J. D., LaRose, R., & Davenport, L. (2016). Media now: understanding media, culture, and technology (9th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.