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Muddled by media law

After reading the section about libel and media law near the end of The Associated Press Stylebook, I have to admit that I feel really muddled.

The complexity of the legal issues discussed is staggering, and more than a little intimidating. Nonetheless, I feel like I now have a better general understanding of the rights and privileges of both journalists and the people who are used as sources or subject material in their news stories.

As I was reading, I began to wonder how journalists and their editors decide if potentially libelous material is worth publishing, at risk; does each news organization have its own guidelines or rules regarding this kind of material, or do news organizations handle the issue of libel on a case-by-case basis?

I suppose there would be benefits and drawbacks to both methods. Having guidelines would streamline the process and result in fewer formal checks, thus speeding things up at an increased risk. Handling libel on a case-by-case basis would slow things down considerably, while probably decreasing the risks involved.

If you have any knowledge of how newspapers typically handle libel before publishing, please provide whatever enlightenment you can.


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