What is a libel review?
A libel review is what it sounds like: an editorial review looking for potentially libelous statements, generally where someone is mixing up statements of fact and opinion, or using hot-button words (opinions which have led to successful lawsuits), playing pranks on other people with false news, or making careless “sympathy statements.”
Why would I need a libel review?
To stay out of court. In the last 20 years I’ve flagged hundreds of potentially libelous comments in writing destined for online or print distribution – all of it done by in-house staff or freelance writers. (Mainstream media venues usually catch libel themselves.)
• A journalist described ABC Company’s salespeople as “thugs.” I suggested they either write “this industry’s thugs” (to avoid naming the company identifiably) or “ABC Company’s heavies” (to avoid the libelous word “thugs). They chose the first, and avoided libel.
• I flagged an online post about a politician describing them as a “Jekyll-and-Hyde character.” That won’t fly, because readers interpret it as “psychopath,” which is a statement of fact. Plus, lawsuits have been won for that exact hot-button term.
• And sometimes people call me too late: a website described a billionaire’s role in a real estate deal gone bad. This was fine when they stuck to the facts, but someone writing website copy accidentally put the words “BRUTAL TYRANT” under the billionaire’s photo, when the caption belonged under a foreign dictator’s photo. I caught it – after it was posted to the website. I suggested they should correct it within five minutes. They did, but the billionaire had already seen it, and their law firm filed a defamation lawsuit the same day.
What are your qualifications?
1. Twenty-eight years’ experience as a professional editor performing libel reviews of books and articles, and now of web content.
2. From 1998 to 2003 I was a Silicon Valley correspondent writing ecommerce and technical news for the Chicago Tribune (and KRTN newswire), The Times of London, the Toronto Globe and Mail, and as a columnist for Southam syndicate, and from 1998 to 2000 was a legal columnist for the Toronto Globe and Mail, Canada’s newspaper of record.
Please contact me by:
1. Phone: 415–810–1966 Pacific Time
2. Email: Nicholas Carroll