Hypothetical Question #2: Gross Negligence Of Press Duty

I’d like to ask you all another hypothetical question.  All of you lawyers out there will again be especially useful, but it’s not just a legal topic, so everyone can chime in.

If someone were, hypothetically, to propose a law that would punish the Press for gross negligence of their duty as the news media in a free society, what would the “elements” of such a law be?

Now, let’s be clear; I’m not advocating such a law.  This exercise has nothing whatsoever to do with proposing a law; the law would be unconstitutional anyway.

But if we were, hypothetically, to try to make such a law, what would be the defining factors of the crime of Press Negligence?

23 thoughts on “Hypothetical Question #2: Gross Negligence Of Press Duty

  1. The elements to any negligence claim are always the same:

    1) Putative defendant owes a duty to putative plaintiff

    2) Putative Plaintiff breaches that duty

    3) And that breach of a duty owed is the cause of

    4) Damages to the Putative Plaintiff

    The standard for “Gross negligence”, IIRC, is that you replace #2 with:

    2) Willfully, wantonly or recklessly breaches duty owed.

  2. Thanks, Foot. I’m pretty happy with the situation we have now; millions are digging into the facts that aren’t covered by the MSM, and sometimes the MSM is shamed into admitting them when the case gets especially bad.

  3. I’m not a lawyer (obviously), but the concept that the press has some sort of legally defined “duty” seems wrong, and trying to legislate such would certainly be contrary to the First Amendment.

  4. What Kerm said — the only way I could suss out a “duty” is if you are paying for the information (as in a newspaper subscription) and it were the only source of the information available to you. But even the Soviets had Pravda and Izvestia.

  5. Media Bias: Turning mountains into molehills and molehills into mountains.


    1: The media outlet (see page 1004 for media outlet elements) has a duty to report similar events similarly.
    2. Willful, malicious or reckless reporting of similar events disparately is a misdemeanor punishable by a one-dollar fine.

    Example: Dan Quayle mispells “potato” as “potatoe.” This event is given 7 minutes on the CBS evening news and 37 follow-up stories. Joe Biden mistakes himself as second in the succession line for the presidency when in fact he is first in line. This event is not covered by CBS at all thus triggering the one-dollar fine.

  6. But even the Soviets had Pravda and Izvestia.

    And the saying was, there is no izvestia in “Pravda”, and no pravda in “Izvestia”. And if you vocalized that in inappropriate circles, you went to jail – literally.

  7. I think the issue is – if MSM willfully misrepresent facts, swaying an election for example, can they be legally liable?

    Obviously, there is a grieved party, and willful misconduct with malicious intent.

  8. Foot and others know law, so the only thing I can say is…if a member of MSM knows the truth, but puts out a story that isn’t true (say, Bush didn’t serve his commitments in the Air Guard), then you would think there could be some liability.

    I think a bigger issue with MSM bias is the old half truth. Technically what they say is more or less correct, but they don’t explain why said event occured.

  9. Tony…good example. The full “potatoe” story…a teacher, member of the NEA, gave the VP a card with pototoe” spelled that way. Why did MSM refuse to put that pesky fact in their 1000 stories on the incidence? Was Dan Qualye set up? What does the NEA know and when did they know it?

  10. “but the concept that the press has some sort of legally defined “duty” seems wrong”

    Mitch asked for a hypothetical negligence law. The elements of all negligence actions include a duty owed to someone (a child, a patient, a client, the public at large, etc.). If there’s no legally defined duty, you can’t have a negligence-based cause of action / crime. Since Mitch poses a hypothetical situation, we have to assume that some sort of duty can be defined in the same way we have to assume that the first amendment wouldn’t forbid such a law. That’s why it’s called a “hypothetical”. It’s an intellectual exercise (for what purpose, I have no idea).

  11. Yes, foot, but with great power comes great responsibility.

    (I have no idea why you got modqueued in the first place…)

  12. Well I did say I was not a lawyer. And I said it seemed wrong. From a hypothetical point of view. God knows a lawyer can turn sunshine into mayonnaise.

  13. “I have no idea why you got modqueued in the first place”

    It was the URL of my old dead blog in my profile. I deelted that and voila’.

    “God knows a lawyer can turn sunshine into mayonnaise.”

    Actually, that’s “hot coffee” into “millions of dollars”.

  14. the URL of my old dead blog

    Yeah, I think I dial the “link count” down to 1 to avoid spammers.

  15. Hmmm…taking the url out of his profile got him out of the modqueue?

    *deletes blog url from profile*


  16. Well, I’ll be damned.

    BTW, the most egregious frivolous lawsuit I’ve seen is still the one where the guy successfully sued BMW for $2M because his new car’s paint job got scratched in the shipping from Europe.

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