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Eddie Johnson sues the Chicago Tribune, others, for defamation

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by JonathanG, Oct 13, 2006.

  1. JonathanG

    JonathanG Member

  2. JonathanG

    JonathanG Member

    So I guess this comes down to whether Eddie Johnson is still considered a public figure (almost certainly yes) and if so, whether the Trib had actual malice when they confused one Eddie Johnson with another.

    Maybe they should have done better research, but its hard not to think that Johnson is just wasting a bunch of money by filing this lawsuit. If it helps him clear his name even further, though, then maybe he will get what he is really after.
  3. Pringle

    Pringle Active Member

    I thought the next day Trib story quoted Johnson saying something like, "Mistakes do happen" and then praising him for being so understanding.
  4. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    I don't see how he can win. The Trib may decide it's cheaper to pay him off, though.
  5. Clerk Typist

    Clerk Typist Guest

    Tribune had no intent in simply misreporting the facts. The judge will likely throw this suit out quickly, given the paper's prompt and thorough apology, and should. Meanwhile, by filing the suit, Johnson gives new readers the opportunity to discover the original misidentification, some of whom will believe he's the bad guy.
  6. SockPuppet

    SockPuppet Active Member

    Let the Trib walk; nail Skippy.
  7. Pringle

    Pringle Active Member

    You're right. People, half-listening, will thing, "I bet he did it!"
  8. jfs1000

    jfs1000 Member

    I am not sure the burden of proof will be actual malice. Is EJ a public figure? I am not sure he is anymore. What I think we will here is the reckless disregard for the truth.

    Honestly, confusing the two is inexcusable? Yes, they have the same last name, but that isn't enough. They should have tried to confirm it was actually that Eddie Johnson. Bad reporting.

    To a guy on a bar stool, it is an easy mistake. But the reporters were careless. This injured Eddie Johnson's rep. I think he has a good shot at the case. It is going to be a costly mistake and I think EJ is right in taking this legal route.
  9. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Was it reporters or was it editors spicing up a wire story?
  10. Chi City 81

    Chi City 81 Guest

    That little tidbit has not been revealed yet.
  11. BigDog

    BigDog Active Member

    I'd say he's got a case. Apologizing doesn't justify sloppiness, especially with something of this sensitive a nature.
  12. JonathanG

    JonathanG Member

    Regarding whether or not he's a public figure...the Supreme Court really has never ruled one way or the other, but lower courts have ruled time after time that public figures do NOT lose their public figure status with a lapse of time. The reason for that being that public figures do not lose their access to the media where they can defend themselves against wrongful accusations like we saw in this very case. Indeed there were at least one or two articles specifically about how Johnson was wrongfully named as being a child molester when of course he wasn't. He had to go out and defend his name using the media, and that's exactly what he did. For example: http://www.usatoday.com/sports/basketball/nba/2006-08-10-innocent-eddie-johnson_x.htm

    Anyway, that's irrelevent I believe since he's still very much in the public light these days. Whether it's by being the voice of Phoenix Suns basketball, or through writing basketball articles on Hoopshype, he almost certainly would still be considered a public figure even if he somehow did lose it over time.

    Did the Trib screw up with this article? Sure. Was there actual malice? Its going to be almost impossible for him to prove that. Especially with the subsequential apology.
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