The U.S. Constitution gives every citizen the right to privacy, but it also grants the right to freedom of speech and courts frequently have to walk a fine line between the two. The law gets especially difficult to navigate when public figures sue journalists for defamation.
The writers of the Constitution recognized the value in not restricting the right of journalists to investigate and report on whatever they found newsworthy. Because of this, the law requires public figures to bear a higher burden of proof than private citizens when filing for defamation, including evidence that the publisher new the statements were false and made them with the intention of harming the public figure’s career.
The idea behind the law is that it is in the best interests of the public to have access to information on public figures. This is especially true of a democracy in which the public should have the right to know what the people they’re voting for are really up to, but the term “public figure” now includes all sorts of entertainers and athletes, in addition to politicians. Continue reading ›