‘Allegedly’ and other ways not to get sued

If you are an avid consumer of news in the form of newspapers and TV, you may have come across the word ‘allegedly’ in such reportage. More so, when such reportage concerns a crime or utterances that can portray the speaker in a negative manner. Ostensibly, this is to cover the newspaper or media house from being sued for libel or defamation.

Well, while this may be true concerning a section of media houses that thrive on sensationalism to push sales, this is a code not subscribed to by many of the news publishers and publishers in general. As such, this article is not about how not to get sued, on the contrary, it illustrates the principles of professional publishing. These include:

Fidelity to the truth

A publisher has a duty to publish the truth, and the truth only. This requires diligence and meticulous research. For instance, if publishing a story about a factory producing xyz minerals and which releases fumes in the surrounding area, with said fumes said to be causing illnesses to residents here, is there enough and credible evidence to support these? Fidelity to the truth will ensure that experts are consulted in regard to such a story, supporting data is looked for and so on as the publisher moves towards the realm of an exposé. Else, in lieu of this, the publisher can create awareness on the issue thus inviting experts and government bodies to carry out further research or investigations to establish the truth.

Objectivity

Objectivity calls for unbiased publishing. Thus, it behoves the publisher to publish facts to a story as they are without taking sides. Otherwise, the publisher would lose the esteem of many readers as not being objective might be construed as a slight to the readers’ intellect. That said, as a publisher may be guided by certain values, thus being slanted to publish stories of one kind over others, this does not in any way excuse them from being objective when publishing these stories.

Right of reply

Basically, the right of reply is concerned with having all the sides to a story being heard. For instance, supposing the publisher is doing an exposé on corruption in which one individual accuses another, then the publisher is obligated to reach out to the accused person for their side of the story and publish both. This with the understanding that his role is akin to that of a public court where the laws of natural justice dictates that both the accuser and the accursed are heard.

Ethics

The publisher has to be acutely aware of the ethics and sensibilities of their industry. For instance, if publishing photos of an accident, it would be insensitive to publish images of bodies which can instantly be identified by the kin of the deceased such as a close-up of faces. Other considerations include clearly stating that certain ad-placements and which may antagonise a group of people such as political campaign adverts are sponsored and that by having them published on their mediums, the publisher is in no way explicitly endorsing them.