Today, Professor of Journalism at Bond University and the author of The Journalist’s Guide to Media Law Mark Pearson states the obvious in Crikey. It’s a fact that nonetheless is worth mentioning, because it certainly hasn’t made the pages of our national broadsheet.
Here it is: most journalists do not normally sue each other.
Pearson outlines why:
- Given they are in the defamation business themselves, most see it as part of the cut and thrust of public debate.
- Many understand the defences and realise the reputational slur will often be protected.
- Most are too poor, and defamation litigation can be unpredictable and costly, particularly if it reaches the appeal stage.
- Journalists are used to telephoning people and having it out with them at an intellectual level. Many disputes are resolved that way, both for and against the media.
- Most realise there are other avenues of recourse, perhaps through their own medium and perhaps via some mechanism for complaint.
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“Finally, and most importantly, unlike doctors, lawyers, sportspeople or politicians, the very act of suing for libel sends a reputational message about the editor himself or herself: that they are the kind of person who would use a defamation action to pursue someone who has exercised free expression. Unlike any other, that very act puts their reputation as an editor on the line among their peers and the broader thinking community. Most would prefer to be remembered for their accomplishments as an editor than to become a textbook case as the editor who sued.”