A Texas appeals court ruled that reporting third-party allegations, even defamatory third-party allegations, is OK as long as it’s “fairly and accurately reported,” according to Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press.
In this particular case, CBS-affiliate KEYE “discussed” two lawsuits and “a 2003 disciplinary action” against Dr. Byron Neely and his “professional association” Byron D. Neely, P.A. “Neely declined to be interviewed for the broadcast. However, Neely’s medical-malpractice counsel and his counsel in the Board proceedings both spoke to Wilson and supplied her with materials and information favorable to Neely.”
Neely ended up suing the reporter, Nanci Wilson, the station and its parent company for libel.
The court ruled that when a media outlet reports “third-party allegations” the “focus” of the “inquiry is on whether the allegations were in fact made and accurately reported, regardless of the truth of the allegations themselves,” according to the court’s opinion.
“In effect, we assume that the ordinary viewer perceives ‘allegations presented as allegations’ to assert merely the fact that the allegations had been made rather than asserting or vouching for any facts referenced in the allegations.” In other words, the key issue is that a media reports correctly reports what another news outlet says, even if it’s wrong.
See the judgment here.