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MMC 4200, Week 6 Notes

by: Deena Acree

MMC 4200, Week 6 Notes MMC 4200

Deena Acree
GPA 3.87

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End of chapter 4: Libel Exam review, defamation, NY Times v. Sullivan, fault, NY Times "Actual Malice", types of plaintiffs, public officials, public figures, negligence, types of damages
Law of Mass Communications
Sandra Chance
Class Notes
media law, Law, mass communication, law of mass communication, first amendment, court systems, SCOTUS
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This 5 page Class Notes was uploaded by Deena Acree on Monday February 8, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to MMC 4200 at University of Florida taught by Sandra Chance in Winter 2016. Since its upload, it has received 102 views. For similar materials see Law of Mass Communications in Journalism and Mass Communications at University of Florida.

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Date Created: 02/08/16
Class Ten (Chapter 4) — 2/9/16 Announcements: • Professor Chance is dealing with some serious medical issues • TA will be teaching the class for the next 4 -6 weeks • We will be getting an extra 2 points for our understanding • Exam: o On Thursday o Bring a #2 pencil and UFID (exam will not be graded w/o ID) o No hats/sunglasses during exam o Be on time § You only have 50 minutes to take the exam § Once the first person finishes an exam, you cannot start it o 50 questions: T/F & multiple choice § Half true/false, half multi ple choice • Exam Review TODAY: o 7:20pm-8:20pm o LIT 113 • Wednesday at 5pm is the deadline to ask substantive questions about the exam • Regular office hours tomorrow from 2:15pm -4pm • We aren't going to get through defamation defenses today; that portion of Chapter 4 will be on exam 2 Defamation • Plaintiff's Burden of Proof o Publication o Identification o Defamatory Statement o Falsity o Fault • New York Times v. Sullivan o Sullivan sued because he was the chief of the police dept. in Alabama where MLK had been arrested o He sued for $3 million o New York Times said they were "relying on the good reputation of the people who had sponsored the ad" o Jury in Alabama awarded Sullivan with $0.5 million o Such an important case because it changed the burden of fault o SCOTUS ruled that the ad was protected because the message was core political speech • Burden of Proof BEFORE NY Times o Strict liability o Plaintiffs could win suits by proving § Defamatory statement § Identification § Publication o There was no real level of fault and no consideration of true vs. false o Defendants had to prove truth or some other "privilege" § The burden was on the defendant to prove that it was true or that they had some other privilege to publish the information § Theoretically, you should have some form of evidence, but proving that things are true is very hard § The burden was shifted after this case from the defendant to the plaintiff • First Amendment & Libel o New York Times v. Sullivan § Need strict scrutiny to criticize political speech § Compelling state interest § Narrowly tailored § SCOTUS said that the ad was core political speech, and that political speech is protected § They said that even though there are mistakes, mistakes are inevitable in free debate, and free debate is an integral part of free speech Fault • NY Times "Actual Malice" o Public officials and celebrities have to prove actual malice o In order for someone to collect punitive damages, you have to prove actual malice • Negligence o In order for someone to collect damages, you just have to prove negligence • Strict Liability o No longer applies NY Times Actual Malice • Test: Defendant published statement either: o Knowing it was false; or o With reckless disregard for the truth • Examples of Actual Malice (pages 132 -135) o Harte-Hanks Communications v. Connaughton — judge o Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts — football coach o No actual malice: AP v. Walker — retired army officer • Reckless Disregard o St. Amant v. Thompson § Amant made a political show that alleged Thompson had done something unethical § SCOTUS said that he had mistakenly thought that he wasn't accountable for the words since they were not his own § There must be sufficient evidence to show that the defendant entertained serious doubts as to the truth of the publication Types of Plaintiffs • Public Officials o Elected and non-elected o SCOTUS ruled that they do have to be public figures in NY Times • Public Figures (can be one of these:) o All purpose o Limited/vortex (interchangeable terms) o Involuntary — the question is when does someone become an involuntary public figure o They must also prove actual malice § Gertz v. Welsh: the court said that public figures do need to prove actual malice, but that the person was not a public figure • Private Plaintiffs o It can be difficult to determine whether a person is involuntary or not Public Officials • Elected to public office • Non-elected employees who play major roles in public policy development o They have to be someone who is playing a major role in developing policy o People who are government employees but not developing policy are not public officials • Prove actual malice for stories about official conduct, not for statements about private lives o If statements are about them in an official capacity, then they have to prove actual malice o If statements are about their private lives (and they are not a celebrity/very famous), then they do not have to prove actual malice • Public officials have to prove NY Times "Actual Malice" o Elected o Non-elected Public Figures • Include those who are "intimately involved in the resolution of important public questi ons or, by reason of their fame, shape events in areas of concern to society at large" o Curtis Publishing v. Butts, 1967 o Unlike government officials, public figures have a platform/more access to the marketplace that they can use to respond to claims o They are more likely to be able to get their voice out when it comes to being defamed o This is the background for why these plaintiffs have a higher burden • Why public figures? o They invite attention and comment and o They ordinarily have access to "channels of effective communication" so they can counteract false statements Defining Public Figures • All-purpose public figures • Limited/vortex public figures • Involuntary public figures • Public Figure Analysis o Whether story is one of general and public concern, and o What level the individual is involved in the matter • Limited/vortex Public Figure o Alleged defamation involves public controversy; o Person suing voluntarily participated in the discussions; AND o Person suing for libel has tried to affect the outcome of the con troversy • Involuntary Public Figure o "exceedingly rare" o People who do not thrust themselves into controversies voluntarily o Drawn into specific issues through unforeseen or unintended circumstances § As soon as someone voluntarily/wants attention for the things that they are doing, they aren't involuntary anymore § The difference is that courts & juries will be more sympathetic toward the plaintiff • VIDEO: Public Figure? o The Wrong Man: The Richard Jewell Story o Atlanta Summer Olympics Bombing, 1996 § Richard Jewell, an ex-police officer, spotted the backpack bomb and cleared the area before it went off, saving lives § The press rushed for the headline that Richard Jewell, the hero of the story, was the bomber (untrue) § They ruined his life for 88 days before the FBI clea red him of any wrongdoing o Clues § Did the individual voluntarily inject him/herself into a public issue in an effort to effect its outcome? § Has the individual actively sought attention from the media or the public? § Was the individual heavily involved in an a rea of high community concern? § Has the individual achieved a broad community reputation involving the activity upon which the libel suit is based? o Georgia Court says Jewel is a § Voluntary limited-purpose public figure? —has to prove actual malice § Purposefully tries to influence the outcome of a public controversy § This is the case because he was giving interviews, asking people to come back to the park, etc. § Or involuntary public figure? § Someone who is caught up in the controversy involuntarily and, against h is will, assumes a prominent position in its outcome. § Or a private figure? o Main lesson to take away is to make sure you have evidence before you claim someone is a suspect Negligence • Failure to do something a reasonable person similarly situated would do • Test: reasonableness • Plaintiff: private person (private individuals must prove that the statement was made with negligence) • Example: failure to contact person or failure to verify So today we have: • Public officials = NYT actual malice • All-purpose public figures = NYT actual malice • Limited/vortex public figures = NYT actual malice • Involuntary public figures = NYT actual malice • Private person = negligence ** Fault for Private Persons • NY Times "Actual Malice" for punitive damages • Negligence in most states for general damages Damages — 2 types: compensatory & punitive • 2 types of compensatory damages (only has to prove negligence) o Actual damages § Award for proven loss of a good name, shame, humiliation, and stress § Injury to reputation must be proven rather than presumed o Special damages § Compensate for lost revenues and other out -of-pocket losses resulting from defamation § Require proof of out-of-pocket loss • Punitive damages (has to prove actual malice) o Awards imposed not to compensate for lost reputatio n but to punish the libeler o They will award punitive damages in cases where defamation is extreme (this means the plaintiff has proved actual malice, so it's mostly to punish them) ---- Sample Exam Questions • A, Common Law • False • False • False • True • False • True • True • False • True • Precedent, Precedent (???) • False • E, all of the above • False • True • False • True • D, A newspaper cannot be compelled to publish news stories, ads, letters, or replies • True • False • False


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