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Elder

Elder

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Published by Nicolau

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Published by: Nicolau on May 29, 2010
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01/24/2013

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551
Truth, Accuracy and NeutralReportage: Beheading the MediaJabberwock’s Attempts to Circumvent
New York Times v. Sullivan
 David A. Elder*
I.
 
T
HE
S
UPREME
C
OURT AND THE
T
RUTH
-A 
CCURACY 
D
ICHOTOMY 
................................................................................555
 
 A. Introduction
.........................................................................555
 
 B. Free Expression Writ Large: The Broad Swathe of 
New York Times v. Sullivan
, 1964-1971
.....................................555
 
C. The Counter-Revolution:
Gertz v. Robert Welch
and Its Progeny
.................................................................................573
 
 D. A Brief Summary of the Court’s Jurisprudence
.................600
 
E. Semantic Confusion about the Meaning of “Truth” andthe Media Jabberwock’s Erroneous Reliance on the
Smith v. Daily Mail
“Rule” 
..................................................603
 
II.
 
T
HE
S
UPREME
C
OURT AND
C
 ALCULATED
F
 ALSEHOOD
:
 
 A 
N
U
NEQUIVOCAL
R
EJECTION OF
M
EDIA 
 A 
BSOLUTISM
..................613III.
 
N
EUTRAL
R
EPORTAGE AND THE
P
ENNSYLVANIA 
S
UPREME
C
OURT
.........................................................................................627IV.
 
 DWARDS V 
.
 
 ATIONAL
 A
UDUBON 
OCIETY 
:
 
 A 
 
F
RESH
L
OOK  AT
F
LAWED
P
RECEDENT
.............................................................640 V.
 
N
EUTRAL
R
EPORTAGE
R
EQUIREMENTS
:
 
 A 
 
C
RITICAL
O
 VERVIEW
...................................................................................655
 A. Introduction
.........................................................................655
 
 B. The Public Person Requirement
..........................................657
 
C. The “Responsible, Prominent” Source Requirement
...........664
 
 D. The “Neutrality” Requirement
.............................................672
 
*
Regents Professor of Law, Salmon P. Chase College of Law, Northern KentuckyUniversity; Columbia University, LL.M. (1973); Saint Louis University, J.D. (1972);Bellarmine University, A.B. (1969). The author would like to thank the professional staff of the College of Law library for their extraordinary conscientiousness and creativity inresponding to my requests for arcane and often inaccessible materials. You are a scholar’sdream team!
 
 
552
VANDERBILT J. OF ENTERTAINMENT AND TECH. LAW 
[Vol. 9:3:551
E. The “Raging Controversy” Requirement
.............................680
 
 VI.
 
 A 
 
S
TATUS
R
EPORT
:
 
 DWARDS 
’ 
 
E
XCEPTIONALLY 
M
ODEST
P
ROGENY 
.....................................................................................684 VII.
 
R
EPUBLISHER
L
IABILITY 
,
THE
C
LASSICAL
M
EANING OF
T
RUTH
,
 
 A 
 
R
ESTRICTIVE
 V
IEW OF
F
 AIR
R
EPORT AND
R
EAFFIRMATION OF A 
F
EDERALIST
 V
IEW OF
W
HAT
I
S
D
EFAMATORY 
:
 
 A 
 
D
EFENSE OF
T
RADITIONAL
 V
 ALUES
................723
 A. Republisher Liability
...........................................................723
 
 B. The Classical Meaning of “Truth” 
.......................................728
 
C. A Restrictive View of Fair Report
........................................756
 
 D. A Reaffirmation of the Federalist View of WhatConstitutes Defamatory Matter
...........................................802
 
 VIII.
 
I
MPLICATIONS OF
N
EUTRAL
R
EPORTAGE FOR
O
THER
P
OSSIBLE
“C
ONDUIT
AND
“M
ESSENGER
 
D
EFENDANTS
............813IX.
 
N
EUTRAL
R
EPORTAGE
S
B
IZARRE
M
ISAPPLICATION OF
N
EW
 Y 
ORK 
L
 AW IN THE
S
ECOND
C
IRCUIT
...........................................818X.
 
C
ONCLUSION
...............................................................................826
 
In over four decades since the
New York Times v. Sullivan
1
 decision, the United States Supreme Court has accorded the Americanmedia a level of freedom of expression that is unparalleled in thedemocratic world.
2
Yet, the Supreme Court has also repeatedlyaffirmed its unwillingness to give the media a constitutional blankcheck,
3
and has authorized redress where public persons can provethat the defendant published a “calculated falsehood.”
4
As any lawyerknows, the calculated falsehood standard is so difficult to satisfy
5
thatoften none but the impulsive, the intrepid or the naïve willcontemplate suing for libel. However,
Sullivan
does allow for rarevictories by public persons, and may impose a degree of caution on atleast some media defendants.
6
 The media Jabberwock
7
finds this stringent standard to beinsufficient.
8
The media argues that if it must abide by the calculated
1
. N.Y. Times Co. v. Sullivan
,
376 U.S. 254 (1964).
2
. See infra
text accompanying notes 459, 639.
3
. See
 
infra
text accompanying notes 52-53, 62.
4
. The Court has defined a calculated falsehood as a knowing or reckless disregardof falsity.
See
 
infra
text accompanying notes 50-52, 62.
5
. See
 
infra
text accompanying notes 450-462, 483, 558-559, 633-634.
6
. See
 
infra
text accompanying note 476.
7
. L
EWIS
C
 ARROLL
,
Jabberwocky,
 
in
T
HROUGH THE
L
OOKING
G
LASS AND
W
HAT
 A 
LICE
F
OUND
T
HERE
21 (1872).
8
. See
discussion
infra
Parts III-VII.
 
 
2007]
TRUTH, ACCURACY AND “NEUTRAL REPORTAGE” 
553
falsehoods standard, self-censorship
9
will reign supreme. In essence,the argument is that the public will suffer
10
because the media won’tbe allowed to publish lies. Calculated falsehoods, which the publicneeds
 
to engage in its democratic functions,
11
will not be available.One should beware of the media spouting
 pro bono publico
 absolutism while hiding “[t]he claws that bite the claws that catch!”
12
 In
Edwards v. National Audubon Society
, the media Jabberwocksucceeded in persuading a predisposed judge and a progressive circuitto manufacture an exception to
Sullivan
for “neutral reportage.”
13
 With “eyes of flame,”
14
the media Jabberwock became free to ignore itsown subjective doubts
15
(
i.e
., publish calculated falsehoods) andfulminate unfettered under the guise of the public interest.The neutral reportage exception consists of the right to publishfalse information about public persons
16
(and perhaps others
17
) thatoriginates from “responsible, prominent” sources (and possibly merely“prominent” or even “irresponsible” sources
18
) as long as theinformation is printed “neutrally.”
19
In its attempts to invoke thisexception, the media Jabberwock encountered a “vorpal sword”
20
inthe form of a largely unsympathetic judiciary.
21
 In 2004, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s “vorpal blade wentsnicker-snack”
22
in
Norton v. Glenn
,
23
and left neutral reportage dead,having “slain the Jabberwock.”
24
In that case, the battle was brutal,with the state and national Jabberwockian horde
25
elegantlydefending the media’s right as “conduit . . . messenger” to print lies(“calculated falsehoods”) about public officials by a public official with
9
. See
 
infra
text accompanying notes 576-583.
10
. See
discussion
infra
Part III.
11
. See
 
id.
 
12
. C
 ARROLL
,
supra
note 7, at 22.
13
. 556 F.2d 113, 120 (2d Cir. 1977),
cert. denied sub nom.,
Edwards v. New YorkTimes
,
434 U.S. 1002 (1977).
See
 
also
discussion
infra
Part IV.
14
. C
 ARROLL
,
supra
note 7, at 22
.
 
15
. See
 
infra
text accompanying notes 679-683.
16
. See
discussion
infra
Part V.
17
. See
 
id.
 
18
. See
 
id.
 
19
. See
 
id.
 
20
. C
 ARROLL
,
supra
note 7, at 22.
21
. See
discussion
infra
Part VI.
22
. C
 ARROLL
,
supra
note 7, at 22
.
 
23
. 860 A.2d 48 (Pa. 2004),
cert. denied sub nom.,
Troy Pub. Co., Inc. v. Norton, 544U.S. 956 (2005).
24
. C
 ARROLL
,
supra
note 7, at 24; s
ee
discussion
infra
Part III.
25
. See
 
infra
text accompanying note 571.

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