Are blogger's journalists?
Will libel lawsuits against bloggers require the testing for absence of malice as traditional media?
Style magazine examines the case of a bartender's blog and observations and comments about local TV personalities after the station threatened to see the blogger.
Blogger Raises Ire of Channel 6
A 25-year-old Richmond blogger known for riffing on nightlife, his sexcapades, literary pursuits and local media personalities has been threatened with a defamation suit.
In an e-mail to blogger Jack Lauterback last week, CBS 6 general manager Peter Maroney demands that he “immediately remove the false, damaging and salacious statements” on his blog related to the station’s newscasters, or face legal action.
Maroney declines to comment on the matter to Style and indicates that he considers the e-mail to be a private communication.
Lauterback, a bartender, writes bluntly about his behind-the-bar observations and salacious encounters at www.jackgoesforth.blogspot.com.
Maroney’s threat stems from a Sept. 12 post, wherein Lauterback calls CBS 6 anchor and reporter Lee Mahaffey “smoking-hot” and confesses he hopes to one day coerce her “into making some bad decisions.”
In a June 19 post, Lauterback alleges seeing CBS 6 weekend anchor Ric Young at a restaurant with his brother. Lauterback describes for readers a night in which his friends mistook Young for Channel 8 anchor Juan Conde. He also writes of the waitress’ complaints about the size of the tip Young leaves.
Lauterback declines to remove the posts and bets that nothing will come of the legal threats. After all, he writes, “the other local media outlets will undoubtedly be all over Channel 6’s decision to pick on a poor blogging bartender.”
John Paul Jones, a law professor who specializes in the First Amendment at the University of Richmond, says that if the lawsuit were to go to trial, the court would likely view Lauterback as a journalist.
Then it would be up to the station to prove that he not only intentionally meant to hurt the anchors’ reputations, but also that what he published was false, and that he knew it was false.
Reached by phone Monday, Lauterback says he stands by what he wrote. He says he’s excited to get a rise out of the television station, but didn’t start blogging to get attention. He has literary aspirations and even a literary hero: “Henry Miller, the writer.” The Miller quotation tattooed on his right forearm reads: “The ordinary man is involved in action, the hero acts. An immense difference.”