Washington Post Sued for False and Defamatory Accusations

28 Feb

 Washington Post Sued for False and Defamatory Accusations

The Washington Post is being sued for $250 million in damages by the family of a teen who last month was involved in a viral video with a Native American man.

Nicholas Sandmann’s family filed a lawsuit with U.S. District Court Eastern District of Kentucky Northern Division at Covington. The Lawsuit claimed the Post published “False and Defamatory Accusations negligently and with actual knowledge of falsity or a reckless disregard for the truth,” in several of their articles covering the incident in print, online, and tweets promoting the articles.

The Covington Catholic High School student and friends’ behavior was called into question when they encountered a 64-year-old Native American man at the Lincoln Memorial. The Post was said to have engaged in a modern form McCarthyism when fighting with news outlets like NBC and CNN, to be the first in the social media fire against Sandmann and his actions. In trying to compete and lead this social media attack on Sandmann which, bullied, vilified, and even threatened Sandmann, the Post neglected basic journalist standards both ethically and legally, such as:

  • The Washington Post did not do adequate research into the story. The Post relied on a video which was posted by a fake Twitter account.

  • Fact checking is also an area where the Post messed up and they used an edited version of the video as their source for the articles they wrote.

  • The Post defamed an innocent civilian within their articles instead of just stating facts and this led to a vicious attack.

As I said above the Post used a version of the video that had been edited to make Sandmann look like a villain as their main reference. Not only was this edited video posted by a fake Twitter account, but the original video showed Sandmann and his friends were approached by the Native American man who instigated the dispute. The Post clearly had no intention in providing accurate and reliable sources in their depiction of the event that transpired in the video.

This is a clear instance where when basic journalistic methods are neglected then a news outlet can face serious backlash and legal ramifications. The Post sacrificed their integrity to get ahead of other mainstream news media and is paying dearly for it with a large lawsuit on their hands. This shows that before anything is posted especially from a journalistic stand point it is worth the effort to fact check and perform adequate research.

Not only can it hurt legally neglecting these journalism standards but ethically it can cause many issues. In this instance because of the Posts actions many people attacked and threatened Sandmann over social media including other news outlets and celebrities. Ethically for the post the defamed someone who didn’t deserve to be defamed simply in order to push their own agenda as a notoriously liberal news outlet and this caused problems for Sandmann and his family. The Post also has dug themselves into a hole because they have shown that they might not always be the most trustworthy news outlet. Therefore, they didn’t just defame an innocent teenager in this instance but ultimately, they defamed themselves. Here we see that it is important to fact check and research adequately or you could end up hurting others reputation and even you’re own.

This negligence from the Post should be a signing example of why although you might sacrifice being ahead of mainstream media it isn’t best to rush and cut corners to get a news story out. As Journalists this shows us of why we should strive for a higher standard when writing any story.

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