Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Who pays the legal costs of 'citizen journalism'

The report was fairly simple, Elliot Spitzer -- former prosecutor, governor and commentator -- was sued for libel by two executives of an insurance giant over a column he had written for Slate. But it raised a question that is troubling more and more recently: Who foots the bill for citizen journalism?

Slate has owners with deep pockets who can afford lawyers, but many Internet sites don't. That leaves them open to pressure, especially from corporations and those who want to intimidate. Think of it, you run a neighborhood blog, writing about local happenings. A local corporation -- or even a citizen -- threatens to sue you for libel. An attorney asks thousands just to take the case, and you -- assuming you're in the state most "citizen journalists" inhabit -- don't have thousands to battle.

OK, I'm describing the problem. Hopefully, soon I'll be able to describe a solution.

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