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Do defamation lawsuits against media outlets ever work?

On Behalf of | Jun 12, 2020 | Civil Litigation |

An important part of being a public business figure is participating in media interviews. While many of these might not present you or your company in the most flattering light, they may remain factual down to the last detail. Yet, you may have a piece published about you that you believe smears your reputation. And you may question its factuality. Before you pursue a lawsuit against the outlet that published it, it’s crucial to know if their actions constitute defamation.

Defamation is tough to prove

Defamation refers to remarks of libel or slander made against you. Libel is an untrue written statement, and slander is an untrue spoken statement. If a news anchor or reporter either spoke or wrote a statement about you which you dislike, you might consider it defamation. Yet, unless their words are patently false, they may not meet its threshold.

For a statement to qualify as defamation:

  • It was either spoken or written
  • It was clearly about you
  • It harmed your reputation
  • It was partly or completely inaccurate
  • Its messenger abused their privilege by making it

These criteria set a high bar for defamation since it is the province of unassailable fact. If the statement did not cause you or your business damage, you could have a difficult time proving your case. And if a media figure published an opinion about you that you disliked, it is unlikely to constitute defamation either. Since their role is subjective by nature, they are not bound by the same strictures.

Defamation does happen

On rare occasions, defamatory statements can rise to the level of lawsuits. A media outlet may have published a false statement about you, which was the result of poor fact-checking or reporting negligence. If the publication does not issue a correction or retraction, you may have grounds for pursuing a suit. Or, a news organization may publish outright lies about you or your business. You will likely have grounds for a lawsuit if they stand by their words. In these cases, an attorney with civil litigation experience can guide you through the process.