Why have so many men been accused in the media of sexual harassment as part of the #metoo movement? Yes, perhaps they are guilty of it, but I want to focus on why the press has been able to name these alleged harassers when they have not been formally charged with any crime.

The main reason could be US media law.

In other countries, the UK for example, “libel law” states that when someone sues, they don’t have to prove the story is wrong. The publisher – for example, the newspaper or website – has to prove their story is right.

This means, before publishing, the media needs a water-tight case. To accuse someone of sexual misconduct, they would normally need proof (such as a recording) or a witness prepared to testify in court.

In the US, it is difficult to sue for libel because of the  first amendment to the US constitution, which protects freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

In the US, the person being defamed must prove the statement is false. And since suing a news outlet in America is a daunting task, Americans are less likely to sue, so US media are more likely to break the story.

Additionally, even if the story is false, the defamed party must also prove malice, which means a journalist purposefully lied, and published to story anyway knowing it was false.

Having said all this, journalists in the US must still go to great lengths to verify facts, because the defamed successfully sue in the US, the damages awarded are usually measure in the millions of dollars.

Why am I educating you on libel law? Because I want you to writer your own news story this week, a story that is completely true and verifiable.

Lab Assignment, Tuesday:

Identify a recent news article which deals in depth with a local, national or global issue and write a 650 word article, expanding the topic through your own verifiable research.

By “recent” I mean that the article must have appeared sometime since the semester began (August 27th). An example of an “in depth” topic would be a topic that you are able to research beyond the original article and is conducive to a 650 word analysis.

Notice how the writers for all the articles above began by these articles by creating an idea, then conducted research to bring the article to fruition. This is what I want you to do.

  • Once you find a suitable topic, begin thinking about how you might create a new angle, which will allow you to create your own original story.
  • Good sources of appropriate topics include authoritative online news sources such as, for example, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, your hometown newspaper, or the library’s database.
  • Requirements:
    • create a lede.
    • avoid the first person pronoun (I) and second person pronoun (you).
    • reference a minimum of 4 sources. You do not need to necessarily cite the sources in your article, but you should provide a reference list at the end of your article. Here is an example of an article with sources at the end.
    • Include a minimum of 4 photos that are captioned and cited.
    • Incorporate specific information from the sources in your article, but be careful to avoid simply summarizing articles.
    • Consider including appropriate diagrams, videos, or pictures along with your text. Provide a caption for the media.
    • Make your article a free-standing piece of writing. A reader should be able to read and understand your analysis without referring back to other articles.

Lab Assignment, Thursday:

Find one case of libel involving photographs and in approximately 10 – 12 sentences, write about the photograph answering all the reporter’s questions. Include a copy of the photograph, caption the photograph, and give credit to the source. Please place this under your lab work menu and title the menu item 9.26: Libel