Investigative Journalists, Businesses and Defamation

false lightYou’re a business owner. One day, while minding your business, an  investigative journalist shows up at your doorstep. You have words; they’re caught on tape. The incident makes you look bad and will undoubtedly have a negative effect on your business if aired. Can you sue for defamation or invasion of privacy?

This was the central question an appeals court in Wisconsin had to consider in a case between Angela Terry, a local wedding videographer, and NBC affiliate WTMJ reporter John Mercure.

Judging from available accounts, Mercure is a consumer advocate journalist. You know, one of those reporters who catch business owners off guard (and on camera) after fielding complaints about their services. In this instance, Mercure was following up on accusations that Terry wasn’t delivering couples’ wedding videos on-time.

Apparently, during the confrontation, Mercure accused Terry of “facing criminal charges”. He also called her a “scammer” and a “cheat”.  A “scuffle” ensued and was caught on tape. In the end, Terry filed a defamation lawsuit against Mercure, WTMJ and the station’s umbrella company, Journal Broadcasting.

The photographer won the first round, but the defendants appealed and won the second time around on the grounds that Mercure’s statements were “either opinions or substantially true” since “none of the broadcasts or corresponding internet stories stated that Terry was actually charged with a crime.”

Now, this is not to say that all business owners accosted by consumer journalists can never win a defamation lawsuit. This one just happened to turn out in favor of the defendants.

If you have a business defamation issue and want to speak with a slander and libel attorney, get in touch. Our full-service law firm has successfully handled all types of defamation cases, and we have the tools and team to help you too, at a reasonable price. Contact us now to begin the conversation.

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