In this module, you’ve explored the concept of defamation and the many ways it is applied to protect reputations, as well as how libel can cause emotional (and sometimes even physical) distress. In this discussion, you will further analyze the landmark case New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, which was covered in your course textbook, to discuss the implications it has had on professional communication.
As explored in this module resources, the final U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case was in part to avoid reducing or endangering the free flow of information from the media to the public, which is “essential to the maintenance of a democratic society.” However, in recent years, some have called for the court to reconsider its past decision, arguing that the ruling has little support from the First and Fourteenth Amendment.
In your initial post, address the following questions:
Why do you think the court created different standards of fault for different plaintiffs (public versus private individuals), and do you think it is appropriate? Why or why not?
Based on the module resources, do you agree or disagree with Justice Thomas that the Court’s ruling in the New York Times Co. v. Sullivan case should be reconsidered? Why or why not?
How does the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the New York Times Co. v. Sullivan case impact how media organizations treat critiques of the government? Use evidence to support your response.
After you are done with that,
Respond to your peer below, answer the following questions, making sure to use evidence to support your opinions:
” I believe that the court made different standards for public versus private individuals because they function in different roles in society. As an individual, I don’t have the reach that someone who is considered a public figure does. I think this is a tricky area. On one front no one is excused for defamation no matter their reach. On the same front, if a company didn’t have the greater burden to prove, they could potentially take anyone who ever expressed a dislike towards them to court which could be seen as an infringement of their First Amendment right of free speech (Lubin Austermuehle, 2022). The question that should be asked is, just because someone expressed a dislike for said public figure, does it count as actual defamation? For this reason, I think it is fair for public figures be subject to proving the greater burden as plaintiff, to create a balance and safety for the individual. I don’t know that I would reconsider this case, but I would definitely say that these types of cases need a very clear definition for what is allowed versus what is not. The problem you run into is the individuality of every case and the ever-changing way they are approached based on the channel used. I think the laws concerning what defamation can be considered should be looked over and updated to include new manners of communication, but that doesn’t mean a public figure should carry any less of the burden of proof. A person who made the decision to run and work in a public office should know that they are more likely to face different options and dislike. The First Amendment was put in place so that people could express their dislike and lack of satisfaction at the government without fear of repercussion. I think that media companies walk a fine line between allowing the discussion of dislike of a public figure while making sure it does not cross boundaries into physical threats or other areas of defamation that can be pursued.”
Do you agree with your peers’ opinion on Justice Thomas’s call to reconsider the New York Times Co. v. Sullivan ruling? Why or why not?
What interesting points did your peers’ responses help you consider, and why?
How might the impact of the media your peers described in their initial posts impact the types of news and information that citizens have access to?
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