Sullivan's Paradox: The Emergence of Judicial Standards of Journalism

North Carolina Law Review, Vol. 73, p. 7, 1994

107 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2010  

Brian C. Murchison

Washington and Lee University - School of Law

John Soloski

University of Iowa - School of Journalism

Randall P. Bezanson

University of Iowa College of Law

Gilbert Cranberg

University of Iowa - School of Journalism

Roselle Wissler

Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

Date Written: 1994

Abstract

In this article, the authors examine the development of libel law in America since the Supreme Court's watershed decision in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan and suggest that Sullivan affords members of the press less protection than many think. Sullivan's actual malice standard invites judges to create norms of acceptable journalistic conduct for news gathering, which members of the press and their lawyers use as maps to navigate around libel liability. The authors examine a large number of these judicial decisions and note the types of journalistic conduct at issue and what conduct the courts view positively. The authors also examine the modes of decision making that courts employ and suggest that judges may take a more restrictive approach in cases concerning research than in cases concerning writing and editing. The considerable leeway that judges have in deciding libel cases presents a serious threat to press freedom. The authors urge law reformers to abandon Sullivan's actual malice standard and adopt alternative forms of First Amendment protection.

Keywords: journalistic standards, actual malice, libel

Suggested Citation

Murchison, Brian C. and Soloski, John and Bezanson, Randall P. and Cranberg, Gilbert and Wissler, Roselle, Sullivan's Paradox: The Emergence of Judicial Standards of Journalism (1994). North Carolina Law Review, Vol. 73, p. 7, 1994. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1724818

Brian C. Murchison

Washington and Lee University - School of Law ( email )

Lexington, VA 24450
United States

John Soloski

University of Iowa - School of Journalism ( email )

Seashore Hall
Iowa City, IA 52242
United States
319-335-5832 (Phone)

Randall P. Bezanson

University of Iowa College of Law ( email )

Boyd Law Building
Iowa City, IA 52242
United States
319-335-9171 (Phone)
319-335-9098 (Fax)

Gilbert Cranberg

University of Iowa - School of Journalism ( email )

Seashore Hall
Iowa City, IA 52242
United States

Roselle Wissler (Contact Author)

Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law ( email )

Box 877906
Tempe, AZ 85287-7906
United States

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