BLOGGERS BEWARE: Re-writing “News” Can Get You Sued…for Libel

BLOGGERS BEWARE: Re-writing “News” Can Get You Sued…for Libel

I’m sure you’ve all see the headlines about the Covington Catholic High School students who were allegedly accosted by a group (on video), and how the media then twisted the entire story, making the kids seem like the perpetrators. More media outlets jumped into the melee, and spread the false narrative.

The Washington Post was one of them and it has now been sued by one of the students. And, in my opinion, for good reason.

The news you see online usually isn’t original. It was often either taken from a large news service, like The Associated Press or Reuters, or it was rewritten by someone who read about an incident. Sure, there are original stories but those, too, are ripe for the picking by what I called News Re-writers.

It seems rare these days to read the words of a journalist who was actually there, at the scene, and who is reporting something that they themselves witnessed.

Some bloggers are News Re-writers and they, too, can be held liable if they distribute incorrect information (libel, defamation, and invasion of privacy). Just because someone else touts specific information as fact does not mean that using their information on your own website, or in your own publication, is going to prevent you from being sued.

This is why fact-checking, and having an unbiased opinion when reporting the news, is so vitally important. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Just one libel lawsuit could bankrupt you in legal fees, even if you win in the end. And, if you rewrote incorrect news, chances are you won’t win that lawsuit.

If you did publish incorrect information, and are hit with a cease and desist request, it would behoove you to remove the story until you can research it further. Do NOT get a big head and try to challenge the accuser if you, yourself, were not there to witness the events you wrote about. If you don’t remove incorrect information from your publication or blog, fail to issue an apology or correction, or, even worse, learn what you published is untrue, but keep it up anyway because of your biased opinions, the damages later can be even greater because you will be accused of malice.

And, remember, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Don’t unintentionally smear someone, and then continue smearing them just because you can’t admit you were wrong. Do the right thing. If you do anything other than ethical reporting, you’re not a journalist. You’re just a jerk.



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7 Responses to "BLOGGERS BEWARE: Re-writing “News” Can Get You Sued…for Libel"

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  4. Ethan Nahté  March 9, 2019 at 1:12 pm

    Your article reminded me of an incident where I was the only reporter in a courtroom, writing for a small, weekly newspaper. A man charged with the murder of his niece was attacked by another relative before the hearing had even begun.

    I wrote about the incident. ( Within a couple of hours, I was seeing rewritten versions popping up not only from publications in the United States, but overseas, as well. They wrote it like they were there witnessing it firsthand. I didn’t have a problem with it, but it was an odd sensation.

    • By Angela Hoy - Publisher of  March 10, 2019 at 11:06 am

      Your employer could have sued them all for copyright infringement.


  5. Geri Spieler  March 8, 2019 at 7:38 pm

    Hi Angela: Really good information you gave here. I’m a former newspaper reporter and now I write for an investigative reporting organization. My big gripe has been about what is called “Citizen journalists.” Sorry, this doesn’t fly. These are people with no training who most likely are publishing just one side of a story. A trained journalist knows you must get several points of view, then report it. The only way to re-publish a story is to publish it in full, and, here is the important piece: Cite the source. In some ways, this is done on Facebook (or the horror). Or Twitter or whatever. You are correct, if you were not there, you have nothing to add. If you find the piece interesting, then republish it and source it.

    • By Angela Hoy - Publisher of  March 8, 2019 at 9:31 pm

      I think you meant “republish it with permission.” 🙂