Ask SPLC: Does including “in my opinion” protect me from a libel or defamation suit?

Q: Does including “in my opinion” protect me from a libel or defamation suit? A: Including the phrase “in my opinion” — for example, “In my opinion, the coach is a cheater” — does not create an automatic shield to libel. Neither does simply reprinting what someone else has said by saying something like, “‘The coach is a… Continue reading Ask SPLC: Does including “in my opinion” protect me from a libel or defamation suit?

Let the dead stay buried: online archiving does not bring "zombie" defamation claims back to life

Two former "American Idol" contestants waited too long to file their defamation suit against the parent company of MTV and VH1, a federal appeals court decides. The ruling is the latest to apply the "single publication rule" to an article continuously available on a news website. The decision should be reassuring to online publishers -- but with some important cautions. 

Send a draft of your story to a source? Some journalists do it — but be mindful of the risks.

A Washington Post reporter's decision to share a draft of a story with his sources is provoking a healthy discussion in newsrooms about when, if ever, it's wise to circulate unpublished material for comments.As originally reported in the Texas Observer, a Post education writer gave the media-relations department at the University of Texas at Austin an opportunity to review and suggest changes to a March 14 story about standardized testing.

Wash. appeals court considers landlord’s libel suit over high school newspaper

The Washington Court of Appeals heard arguments in a libel suit against the student newspaper at Roosevelt High School on Monday, a case raising the issue of a school district’s liability for stories written by student journalists.Landlord Hugh Sisley brought the lawsuit against the Seattle School District after The Roosevelt News published a story in 2009 claiming Sisley had “been accused of racist renting policies.” Sisley and his wife deny those allegations and claim the story defamed them.Superior Court Judge Kimberly Prochnau sided with the school district last year, finding both that the story was not libelous and also that the school could not be held liable for the work of student journalists who are not the school's agents or employees.On appeal, the Sisleys are challenging both of those findings and want the case to go forward to a trial.A three-judge panel of the appeals court heard oral arguments in the case Monday morning, appearing skeptical of arguments from both sides.School district attorney Jeff Freimund faced questions on the school’s liability for newspaper content, while the Sisleys’ attorney, Jeff Grant, was questioned on whether the story itself could be libelous.In legal briefs, the school district argues that it can’t be held liable for the story because the First Amendment prohibited school officials from censoring it.