The case between Colin and the Daily Gazette brings into light the challenges that members of the public face when stories about their lives are published by newspaper editors without their approval. Some stories are true and may push a person into the limelight positively, but other stories may be false and result in a scandal with the capacity to bring up legal action. Colin was a 22 years old student in college who managed to make a lot of money in a short period by inventing and selling an operating system known as Doors. This may have caused his former partner and roommate, Ralph to get jealous, and thus publish a false story to defame him.
As highlighted in Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., 418 U.S.323 (1974), a person is a public figure if they had clear evidence of fame, or notoriety in the community at large (Justina, 2020). They are to be pervasive in ordering how society runs and be of great influence. Colin never met any of these standards thus could not be deemed as being a public figure. He was just a college student that had sold a product that simply made him a lot of money in a short time. He did not meet the criteria of being a person of great influence in his society nor did he have anything to do with telling the people around him how to run their affairs. If Colin was to be categorized as a public figure for making a lot of money then all business owners worldwide would also be categorized as public figures. So Colin was right to argue that all he did was to invent and market a product like any other business owner worldwide would do.
However, after being sued, the Gazette emphasized that Colin was a public figure although he did not qualify legally to be deemed one. Therefore, at the contest, Colin should win the case because the gazette is wrong in its claim. In Gertz v. Robert, it is explained that simply having your story published by an editor in the newspaper just because your story is newsworthy does not amount a person to be a public figure. Most importantly news editors charged with libel cannot use their defense by converting private citizens into public figures because of covering their story in newspapers (Jewell,1994). The story published by the editor about Colin having cheated on his Political Science examination in his second year of college was even a lie from Ralph. As an editor, his nature or second job is that of being an impartial investigator.
When Ralph came to the Gazette’s editor with the story about Colin, the editor should have questioned his motives and investigated whether the story was true. News reporters and editors have ways and means to get the correct information and their employers provide them with resources to investigate the truth. Therefore it is clear that the editor did not do his due diligence to find the truth. He should have simply called Colin to ascertain his side of the story. In Levinsky’s Inc v. Walmart Stores Inc, 127 f 3d 122(1st Cir. 1997) the court held that all cases involving defamation require the plaintiff to prove negligence in the part of the defendant (Cornell Law school, 2019). As such, if Colin could prove to the court that the news editor portrayed neglect in editing the story, he had an upper hand. Luckily he had the proof because the story was false and he was never contacted regarding whether the story was true since it talked about his personal life in school. Thus, Colin would indeed win the case.
Cornell Law School. (2019). Defamation. LII / Legal Information Institute. https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/defamation
Jewell, R. (1994). Libel and slander. Law Library – American Law and Legal Information – JRank Articles. https://law.jrank.org/pages/8240/Libel-Slander-PUBLIC-FIGURE-DOCTRINE-AN-UNWORKABLE-CONCEPT.html
Justia. (2020). Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., 418 U.S. 323 (1974). Justia Law. https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/418/323/