Justice Comes in Quotes

Journalists can tinker with the words of interview subjects -- but reckless falsity can be libelous

Many journalists hoped the case would simply go away; the prospect of juries setting limits on the work practices of reporters was a newsroom nightmare. But last week the Supreme Court decided otherwise. It unanimously overturned the decision of a federal court and ruled that the discomforting case of journalist Janet Malcolm, accused of libeling her subject by fabricating his quotes, should go to trial. Nevertheless, the reaction from most reporters, though hardly unanimous, tended toward a collective sigh of relief that the decision showed a subtle sensitivity to their craft.

The lack of outrage among those likely to be most...

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