How to Avoid Libel and Slander
Libel is a form of defamation by written or printed words, pictures, or the act of publishing these written or printed words, which disparage someone. Slander is a malicious statement or report. Some people differentiate the two as libel being written defamation, while slander is verbal defamation, and both are against the law. It becomes a writer’s responsibility to ensure that they take the proper steps in order to successfully avoid defamation throughout their career. There are many aspects to consider, especially when creating a published work to steer clear of libel and slander. One of the first steps to take as a credible author would be to first check your sources. You want to make sure that your sources and information are accurate and that there were no mistakes made or facts misrepresented. You wouldn’t want to be associated with a “Stephen Glass” incident. It would also be wise to gather as many sources as possible to back up any information you publish. Be sure not to omit details that can change the viewpoint of your story and be as accurate as possible.
Most importantly, to be taken seriously as a credible and ethical author you should follow a guideline or checklist when avoiding a defamation lawsuit. Make sure you are clearly aware of what you are writing, or saying “on the record.” You should also be sure that any potential readers clearly understand what it is you are trying to convey and only say something that you are able to back up or prove. It could also help for a writer to use a language geared towards opinions and beliefs. It would definitely be a safer route to use a more opinionated tone when talking about matters you may not fully understand or when you wish to convey your own beliefs, but they should still always relate back to your hard-hitting facts.
It would also be beneficial when discussing crime related topics to have evidence to back up any claims you make. It would be wise to support any boldface accusations with the reasoning behind your words, as opposed to just stating “this person is guilty” or this person is a liar.” Finally, as an author you need to continually act ethically. If you follow a standard moral code of conduct, you will be a lesser target to sue for defamation and it will be more believable to a jury if you have no past experiences with slander or defamation.
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