Saturday, April 17, 2010

Investigative reporters talk about being sued

Chris O'Brien, blogging for's MediaShift site, reported in real time on today's 4th Annual Reva and David Logan Investigative Reporting Symposium at UC-Berkeley. The theme was "Collaboration, Consequences, and Cash," but the most interesting part of O'Brien's post is at the end, when a number of veteran reporters talk about being sued:
  • Brian Ross of ABC News: I was sued by Wayne Newton once. It bankrupted him. Cost ABC millions. And we lost. But won on appeal. Taking on the powerful will always has risks.

  • Omoyele Sowore, Sahara Reporters: One source tried to sue me by claiming we didn't really have an interview, it was just a man-to-man discussion.

  • Dana Priest, The Washington Post: The good thing about covering the CIA is that they don't want to take you to court. ... When the secret prison story was coming out, the big hoopla: I got death threats and terrible messages left on the phone from the public, and hate mail. No one was calling up and saying, "Great job!" except some human rights groups. Congress started calling for investigations of the Post (not the secret sites). Message: There would be a cost for dealing with the media. That created a chill. Caused a quandry for me. So I decided to stop doing this reporting for awhile. That led to working on the Walter Reed Hospital stories. But it was upsetting.
  • Diana Washington Valdez, El Paso Times: The biggest threat came from President Bush who once threatened to sue me during an interview. ... But anytime a truck with tinted windows slows down next to me, I get nervous and wonder who it is. And we've had reporters in El Paso kidnapped. And I have colleagues in Mexico who have not been so fortunate as me. And I've thought about getting a concealed weapons permit.
  • John Smith, Las Vegas Review Journal: My first big lawsuit was from by profile of Steve Wynn. He said publicly he wanted to bankrupt the publisher and take my house. He filed the suit in Kentucky. It was a nuisance lawsuit, filed because I had embarrassed him. We tangled. I was dismissed early on. My publisher litigated for nine years, and it did drive publisher into temporary bankruptcy.


Anonymous said...

There ought to be another way to settle libel disputes than using the courts, which exhaust the financial resources of both sides. Seems the only winners are the lawyers.

Anonymous said...

would like to know more about Bush's threat to the reporter from El Passo