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Reporters and news outlets hold an interesting position in our country. They are allowed privileged access and are privy to a lot more information than the average citizen.

The First Amendment allows special access for reporters and news outlets to share information as they see fit. It is their job to keep the public well-informed on all matters going on in the country. But to what extent should the First Amendment protect reporters and news outlets? Should they be allowed to say whatever they want? Or should they legally be held to ethical standards that we, the public, would expect them to uphold?

I believe in everyone’s right to express themselves; however, I think that reporters and news outlets should be obligated to report the truth. If someone either lacks awareness that a statement is untrue or knowingly spreads falsehoods with malicious intent, the First Amendment should not shield them. People in the press hold a position of exceptional access, and the information they share can be incredibly impactful. It is their responsibility to ensure that what they are printing is true.

In New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, the burden is placed on Sullivan to prove that the New York Times knowingly published misinformation. I do not think this should be for the public to prove. It should be the responsibility of the reporter and the news outlet to confirm that anything they are printing is true prior to publishing it.

A weaponized defamation lawsuit leverages the large cost of defending a defamation action and the defendant’s uncertainty regarding the outcome to stifle criticism of a public figure that may be legitimate.

I find the use of weaponized defamation lawsuits against members of the media concerning. The threat of this type of lawsuit can have negative repercussions when it comes to accurate reporting, as reporters or news outlets may shy away from sharing certain unfavorable information with the public. Specifically in politics and legal reporting, the public has a right to know, and it should not be impacted because reporters are scared to do their job.

When going to court for a defamation lawsuit, it is currently up to the plaintiff to prove the defendant had malicious intent. While I do not agree with where the burden is placed in these lawsuits, there are certain things a plaintiff will want to have prepared for their arguments.

Some counterarguments that a plaintiff would want to address in a defamation suit include any public records that prove the information is false. Having public records would show that a reporter did not do their due diligence in ensuring what they were reporting was true. In addition, they would want to review any previous reporting from that specific person or outlet to show any bias that has already been set against the public figure. Finally, they would want to have proof of any damages caused by the false information.

Anti-SLAPP statutes are in place to prevent the misuse of the legal system by giving extra protections to people sued for using their First Amendment rights. “SLAPP” stands for a strategic lawsuit against public participation.

In theory, anti-SLAPP statutes should help those who are being sued in an attempt to silence them and prevent them from exercising their First Amendment rights because they have said or written something that someone doesn’t like.

However, with 17 states not having any anti-SLAPP statutes in place and nine states with statutes graded lower than C, they may not currently be as effective as we would think.

Good news, though! This is an ever-evolving landscape that has shown significant improvement over the past year. Hopefully this will continue to progress, and we will see reporters only reporting the truth, and people will not feel threatened to exercise their First Amendment rights.

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