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Tort Law and Journalism Ethics

Richard T. Karcher

Eastern Michigan University

April 29, 2009

Loyola University Chicago Law Journal, Vol. 40, p. 781, 2009

This paper compares and contrasts the ethical obligations of news reporters under journalism ethics codes with their reporting obligations under state defamation and privacy tort law. It addresses the infiltration of tabloid journalism into traditional media sources, including the proliferation of sensationalism, triviality and disregard for privacy, with a particular emphasis on news coverage of the sports and entertainment industries. The paper also addresses the different standards for public figures created by the media, whether such standards promote justifiable social policy objectives, and how the media’s creation of such standards impacts society’s views and treatment of public figures. A 2008 survey of journalists conducted by The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press convincingly demonstrates why the journalism marketplace in the twenty-first century encourages a tabloid news media and fails to provide the press with appropriate incentives to adhere to journalism ethics codes. This paper advocates that strict tort law standards, which shield the press and were developed over forty years ago in a remarkably different free market and technological journalism environment, need to be revisited. The paper provides suggestions for incorporating journalism ethics codes into tort law standards in a manner that would create incentives for the press to internally regulate journalism ethics and give some teeth to journalism ethics codes without compromising the First Amendment.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 65

Keywords: Defamation, Privacy, First Amendment, Journalism Ethics

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Date posted: April 30, 2009 ; Last revised: May 20, 2009

Suggested Citation

Karcher, Richard T., Tort Law and Journalism Ethics (April 29, 2009). Loyola University Chicago Law Journal, Vol. 40, p. 781, 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1396815

Contact Information

Richard T. Karcher (Contact Author)
Eastern Michigan University ( email )
318 Porter Building
Ypsilanti, MI 48197
United States
(734) 487-9134 (Phone)
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