Because television, Internet news sites, radio, newspapers and magazines have the power to disseminate information to large audiences in distant locations, these modes for transmitting news have altered the course of major world events. They have also caused significant damage to victims who have watched or listened helplessly as untruthful, denigrating statements about them were released.
Denton & Denton Attorneys at Law was founded in 1980 in Virginia Beach with the mission of achieving justice for those harmed by defamation. Our attorneys know firsthand the value of upholding our positive reputation in our community. We are passionate and aggressive advocates if the media has acted in a manner that jeopardizes your good name.
The First Amendment protects the freedom of the press to report the news without fear of retribution if others do not approve of the release of inflammatory information. After all, the news media often make truthful, yet scathing, comments about public figures, celebrities, newsmakers, businesspeople and corporations. The media’s role is to report on the news, no matter how unpleasant and incendiary. The Constitutional rights to freedom of the press — which is really the same as freedom of speech exercised by journalists and media outlets — in essence protect our right to know the truth.
Just as with freedom of speech, freedom of the press does not protect the actions of a media outlet that publishes information with reckless disregard for the truth. Journalists are responsible for checking sources for reliability and reviewing the facts for accuracy. Failure to do so may result in a defamation claim.
Your status as a private or public figure affects the standard of proof required for you to prevail on a media defamation claim. Public figures must prove actual malice — meaning the media outlet printed, transmitted or broadcasted the information with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard about whether it was false. Private figures need only demonstrate that the defendant journalist was negligent or at fault for publishing false, defamatory information.
Blogs, Internet chat rooms, Internet video sites and social media platforms allow people to express their opinions to a wide audience across the globe. Some of these sites have become forums for amateur journalists and photojournalists to post the daily news in their neighborhoods. As with mainstream media, these community-focused news sources enjoy First Amendment protection to report truthful facts. Just like major media sites, small blogs and social media reporting do not have a Constitutional right to defame. In addition, reporting a fact disguised as an opinion does not relieve them of the duty to ascertain the accuracy of their postings. Local sources may cause greater damage to your reputation than national and international media because their audience is your neighbors, coworkers, friends and family. Our Virginia social media lawyers defend you against defamation transmitted through such popular sites as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Reddit.
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