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Tools of the Craft

  • Fact Checking
  • Getting Started - Keeping Current
  • Don't Limit Your Audience
  • How to Interview
  • Protecting Your Sources
  • What is Investigative Journalism?
  • The Muckraking Tradition
  • Using Style Sheets for Publication
  • Power Structure Research
  • Basics of Responsible Journalism

    Home/Media/Training

    Legal Matters

    Avoiding Defamation

    [Under Construction]

    Anyone can file a lawsuit charging defamation. It just take a pile of money and a bad attitude. In addition to copious fact-checking, here are some tips.

    Always call persons being investigated and give them an opportunity to explain their point of view and answer charges. If a target of an investigation refuses to be interviewed, send a certified return-receipt letter stating the major allegations you intend to make, and asking for any corrections or clarification. Ask for a verbal or written response by a specific date.

    Include quotes or summaries from serious responses in the published text. It is harder to win a defamation action if the person complaining was given a chance to correct the record.

    Take threats of lawsuits seriously, but if you are sure of your facts, have given the person a chance to respond, and believe it is an important story, then proceed cautiously.

    If you a caught making an error--and it is really an error--apologize immediately and correct the record.

    The Associated Press stylebook includes a libel manual in its back pages.

    Copyrights

    Stealing the copyrighted work of another person and posting it on the internet is not a form of "liberating" information...it is undercuting the ability of a writer to make a living.

    It's like stealing a bookshelf from a carpenter.


    These pages are adapted from a course, "Strategic Research, Analysis and Reporting," developed by Chip Berlet, Holly Sklar, and Abby Scher
    for theZ Media Institute hosted by Z Magazine in Woods Hole Massachusetts.
    Please do not copy or distribute material from these pages.
    Links are welcome.
    All material unless attributed to a specific author is
    © 1968-2015 by Research for Progress

    All Z Media Institute material © 1997-2015 by
    Chip Berlet, Holly Sklar, & Abby Scher

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    Civic Education

    Elements of Democracy: The Overall Concept

    Basic Concepts, from Magruder's, Chapter One

    Essential Elements: The International Consensus

    Democracy Activism

    Frances Moore Lappé, Doing Democracy: 10 Practical Arts Handbook, Small Planet Institute.

    Bill Moyer, JoAnn McAllister, Mary Lou Finley & Steve Soifer, Doing Democracy: The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements, New Society Publishers.

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    _________________________

    Democracy is not a specific set of institutions but a process that requires dissent.
    - - -
    Democracy is a process that assumes the majority of people, 
    over time, given enough accurate information,
    the ability to participate in a free and open public debate,
    and to vote without intimidation,
    reach constructive decisions that benefit the whole of society, and 
    preserve liberty, protect our freedoms, extend equality,
    and thus defend democracy itself. 

    _________________________

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