Lawyers no longer running UK newsrooms

A landmark ruling on libel law in Britain's highest court yesterday will have a profound effect on the nature of investigative journalism there. Until...

A landmark ruling on libel law in Britain's highest court yesterday will have a profound effect on the nature of investigative journalism there. Until the ruling brought in a "public interest" defense in British libel law, the burden of proof had been on the journalist to prove the story is true. The ruling now brings the UK more into line with US law, in which the burden of proof is on the plaintiff.

Now that British media organizations may pursue stories of public importance without fear of going up before the beak, it will be interesting to see how journalism changes. One of the effects of the previous law was that hotshot lawyers on media staffs (particularly newspapers, the breeding ground of investigative journalism) would find ways to circumnavigate the law, and come up with increasingly devious ways to get the story out there. Now that news organizations can play the story straight in more instances, the newsroom will get the final say on whether a story runs - not a lawyer.

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