Pub. date: 2009 | Online Pub. Date: December 16, 2009 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412972048 | Print ISBN: 9780761929574 | Online ISBN: 9781412972048| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Key Documents: Section I. Journalism, Media, and the Law - Libel Issues
Journalists have always felt an obligation to hold public officials to a more intense level of scrutiny than private citizens. Besieged public officials had long tried to ward off the criticism this attention produced by filing a steady stream of libel suits against the press. The frequency of these defamation charges, and the ease with which the suits were won, elevated the importance of the decision in the 1964 New York Times Co. v. Sullivan Supreme Court case to landmark status. Justice William J. Brennan Jr. began the majority opinion by saying that for the “first time” a case would determine how much constitutional protections should “limit a State's power to award damages in a libel action brought by a public official against critics of his official conduct.” Justice Brennan fully realized the potential impact of this case on the freedom of the press and other watchdog groups. He wrote ...