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Uh, libel problems anyone?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by forever_town, Jul 28, 2008.

  1. forever_town

    forever_town Active Member

    The actual hede used in this online story doesn't suggest it, but the link to it from Yahoo!'s front page reads as follows: Gunman held on $1 million bail after opening fire at Tenn. church

    Unless that said "Alleged gunman," it looks like Yahoo! is just crying for a libel suit. Unless the guy pleads guilty or is found guilty and has exhausted all avenues of appeal.
  2. Simon_Cowbell

    Simon_Cowbell Active Member

    Go ahead, alleged gunman, sue away.
  3. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    Is there any question that he was indeed the gunman? He was the man with the gun, correct?
  4. kingcreole

    kingcreole Active Member

    If somebody was shot, there was a gunman. Or gunwoman. Gunperson?
  5. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    Can alleged gunman prove his reputation was irrevocably harmed by this headline? That he was denied jobs, dates, home loans and a role as a community organizer as a result of this libel?
  6. rascalface

    rascalface Member

    I was taught to avoid using the word "alleged" altogether, since it offers no protection from libel.
  7. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    I wonder about this regularly given all the legal stories we deal with now.

    We have people arrested and charged with things, and the language has to be careful there, obviously. "Man arrested for possessing drugs" doesn't really cut it.

    From a strictly journalistic, safe sense, this Knoxville headline is wrong based on what we've been taught.

    But in a practical sense, it will never be proved that this guy didn't have a gun, and that he didn't open fire. Whether he's convicted of anything (because of insanity or whatever) is a different matter.

    This is a journalistic procedure thing, not something to worry about legally. I'm with Simon; there will be no suits filed, and none won, over this.
  8. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    I can see why you'd throw in a gratuitous 'alleged' just to be safe, but in most cases, it's pretty clear:

    You'd go with 'alleged rapist' because rape can be disputed...'alleged murderer' in cases where the crime could be manslaughter or something else....'alleged kidnapper' if it turns out the accused had permission, etc. But if you are undeniably the man with the gun, then you are indeed the gunman.
  9. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    It was my twin brother!
  10. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    Damn. I'll call the lawyers.
  11. dixiehack

    dixiehack Well-Known Member

    Person of gun.
  12. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    Well, according to the letter in the car referenced in the story, he pretty much spelled out what he was about to do and said he didn't expect to leave the church alive. Then there are all the eye witnesses.

    Alleged or not thrown in for good measure, sometimes there isn't an alternative explanation and straining to find one doesn't do anyone a service.

    On the one in a billion shot he did try to sue for libel, though, he needs to prove negligence, and based on all of the info in the story: he eye witnesses, the tracing the of the shotgun, the note, the police info, it would be pretty difficult to prove that Yahoo! printed that negligently -- even if it is somehow untrue. Plus, the the lede is: "An unemployed man accused of..." It makes the distinction between the accusation and guilt with that statement alone.
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