The SanityPrompt

This blog represents some small and occasional efforts to add a note of sanity to discussions of politics and policy. This blog best viewed with Internet Explorer @ 1024x768

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

What's Going to Happen To Political Coverage in This Country?

Recently, the Supreme Court refused to shield newspapers that report false charges by others. At issue, a Pennsylvania paper which reported that a politician accused rivals of being child molesters.

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.

What is going to happen in the future when the Swift Boat veterans and the National Guard veterans trot out their charges? What about hose votes to raise taxes, to cut spending, to do this or that? What will become of politics if we ask the press to try and report the truth. Shock! Horror!


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