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apgambrell
04-06-2014, 03:25 AM
If a journalist reveal the identity of someone, like the real name of an author who has written controversial materials, and that author suffers injury or death as a result of everyone knowing who they are, can the journalist be held responsible? Also, are there any know cases of this happening and where can I read about them?

King Neptune
04-06-2014, 04:07 AM
I would suggest that you search on google for detail about cases. Reporters have been held responsible in some cases, but without knowing the details of all cases I don't know wehter a reporter has been found responsible in a case like what you mentioned. Reporters certainly can be held responsible for reporting untrue things, and if they violate an agreement they can be held responsible.

gloame
04-06-2014, 04:53 AM
I'd look into the Valerie Plame affair. It's illegal to out a spy, though Robert Novak (the journalist who actually outed her and other operatives and informants she worked with as a CIA operative) was never charged because his lawyer argued that he wasn't "sure" Valerie was a CIA agent.

There was a trial, though, with a grand jury. That was when Scooter Libby was indicted. Other journalists were subpoena'd to testify.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plame_affair#Journalists_subpoenaed_to_testify_in_ Fitzgerald.27s_grand_jury_investigation

apgambrell
04-06-2014, 05:07 AM
M story involves an author who writes explicit romance novels under a pen name and a journalist in her town reveal her real identity. It causes a backlash, book burning and a obsessed fan actually harms her after finding out who she is.

That being said, can the journalist be held responsible for her getting hurt?

Cath
04-06-2014, 05:35 AM
An awful lot is going to depend on where and when this is set. Can you give us more details?

jclarkdawe
04-06-2014, 05:44 AM
Criminally or civilly? Very different standards.

Civilly, if a journalist and her paper released the identity of an individual that the journalist and/or paper knew that there was a risk to that person, the journalist and paper would be responsible for damages. If the journalist and/or paper were negligent in releasing the information, maybe they would be responsible for damages.

I can't imagine a publisher for any sort of reputable newspaper publishing such information. I don't see it as terribly "newsworthy" and the risk of the lawsuit is high.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

apgambrell
04-06-2014, 05:46 AM
Modern day Texas in a rather right-wing community. The paper is a free one ran by a crackpot who'll print anything. The character is supposed to come of as a reckless sensationalist who has no regard for anyone as long as he gets story.

Trebor1415
04-06-2014, 02:41 PM
M story involves an author who writes explicit romance novels under a pen name and a journalist in her town reveal her real identity. It causes a backlash, book burning and a obsessed fan actually harms her after finding out who she is.

That being said, can the journalist be held responsible for her getting hurt?

I don't see how, unless the journalist specifically calls for acts of violence against the author. Freedom of the press and all that. There is nothing criminal about "outing" an author who uses a pen name, even if that person is later harmed.

Now, if the author wants to file a civil suit, she could try. Personally, I don't see it getting any traction, but courts can be strange places sometimes and juries have been known to do weird things.


Civilly, if a journalist and her paper released the identity of an individual that the journalist and/or paper knew that there was a risk to that person, the journalist and paper would be responsible for damages.

Would you agree that merely revealing that someone uses a pen name is not, in itself, a reason to think that person does so to avoid some danger to herself? And that, therefore, the journalist/paper wouldn't be responsible? (Absent any other evidence that the person would be at risk if their name was revealed)

King Neptune
04-06-2014, 06:34 PM
Modern day Texas in a rather right-wing community. The paper is a free one ran by a crackpot who'll print anything. The character is supposed to come of as a reckless sensationalist who has no regard for anyone as long as he gets story.

People sue that sort of paper all the time, and sometimes the people suing win.

shaldna
04-06-2014, 07:35 PM
I know who was, wrongly, named in a paper here after being arrested for horrible things he hadn't done, including being a member of a terrorist organisation. The paper printed his name and address - as it common practice here.

He really suffered over that, physically and mentally, and aside from being attacked by other people, even after it was proven that he was innocent, well, as they, shit sticks so his life was ruined by that journalists mistake.

He got a massive payout from the paper over it because they were seen to be responsible for it.


However, that was a situation where it was incorrect information. I'm not sure it would be the same case if the information was correct. I think, unless the newspaper was inciting violence, then it's more likely that the individual who injured her would be held accountable.

ULTRAGOTHA
04-08-2014, 04:34 AM
If what the paper printed was true, there's no criminal case; and she's going to have a very hard time winning a civil case, especially if it's brought in that conservative town.

Truth is a strong defense in libel cases in the US.

Also, Texas has a strong anti-SLAPP (http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/anti-slapp-law-texas) (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute that would allow the newspaper to sue her and have a decent chance of winning.

Then she'd be subject to the Streisand Effect (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streisand_effect).

Here is Texas Representative Steve Stockman filing a defamation suit against a political organization (http://www.popehat.com/2014/02/23/rep-steve-stockman-r-tx-files-highly-questionable-defamation-suit/), not a newspaper. He's unlikely to win. The organization could file an anti-SLAPP suit against him. That's a very likely outcome for your author in your story if she sues the newspaper for reporting the truth.

NDoyle
04-08-2014, 04:51 AM
Truth can be stranger than fiction:


http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2014/04/07/3423257/meet-the-alabama-blogger-who-spent-five-months-in-jail-over-his-journalism/


Until last week, Shuler was the only known journalist in the Western Hemisphere jailed for doing his job. Shuler, a former sports reporter and university editor who developed the political blog Legal Schnauzer, is known as a controversial figure in his community. He has fielded other allegations of falsehoods and has been embroiled in numerous lawsuits over his blogging. But even his critics conceded that a court order banning him from writing anything about the alleged extramarital affair of a man rumored to be running for Congress was likely unconstitutional, and a First Amendment outrage.

ULTRAGOTHA
04-08-2014, 05:22 AM
Part of Roger Schuler's problem is Roger Schuler (http://www.popehat.com/tag/roger-shuler/).

Which is not to let Judge Neilson off the hook. He should never have issued that injunction. Prior restraint by the court is far more problematical than defamation.

NDoyle
04-08-2014, 06:25 AM
(I was pointing that story out only in hopes of helping apgambrell, not out of any fondness for Schuler. I'd never heard of him until that link coincidntally popped up in a newsfeed. It immediately brought this thread to mind!)

MDSchafer
04-08-2014, 07:19 AM
The only way I know for journalists to be criminally prosecuted is if they knowingly print classified material, but that's got to be a fairly limited scope. When Robert Novack outed Valerie Plame it was Scooter Libby who went to "Jail."

Truth is a defense for liable, and with public figures not only do you have to prove something was untrue, you have to prove malice, which is why liable cases rarely go to trial. That said lawyers make their living by suing people, so they might try, especially if they're getting paid hourly.

I don't think you could successfully sue a journalist in that situation if they came across the information legally. Now say they got the information through an illegal act like a wire tap or hacking an email or voice mail, then yeah, the author would have criminal and civil remedies available.

Bare in mind though most journalists are judgement proof essentially because they make no money.