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Washington court rejects defamation suit over TV news omissions

[JURIST] Washington's Supreme Court has ruled that a businessman cannot sue a TV reporter for defamation simply for omitting facts from a news report that could have made the plaintiff look better. KXLY-TV [media website] in Spokane, Washington ran a report in 1998 about the prosecution of man with Down's syndrome for allegedly harassing Eliot Mohr's business. Mohr sued the station for defamation, saying that the report unfairly portrayed him as a bully. Mohr argued that the omission of key facts, including threats made by the man with Down's syndrome, amounted to libel. In a 6-3 decision, the state Supreme Court said that defamation by omission is possible, but that "Merely omitting facts favorable to the plaintiff or facts that the plaintiff thinks should have been included does not make a publication false and subject to defamation liability." Media organizations supported the TV station, arguing that "the plaintiff would require courts to become 'super editors' by sifting through a reporter's research and interviews and imposing damages on a truthful publication simply because the reporter has failed to 'spin' the facts reported in the story in favor of the plaintiff's viewpoint." Read the court's full opinion [text] along with a concurrence [text] and a partial concurrence and dissent [text]. AP has more.

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