The New York Times And The Civil Rights Movement Essay

The New York Times And The Civil Rights Movement Essay

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Background
In 1960, the New York Times(Defendant) ran a full-page advertisement paid for by civil right activists. The ad openly criticized the police department in the city of Montgomery, Alabama for its treatment of civil rights protestors. The Plaintiff ( Sullivan) was one of three Commissioners of Montgomery, Alabama, who claimed that he was defamed in a full-page ad taken out in the New York Times. The advertisement was entitled, “Heed Their Rising Voices” and it charged in part that an unprecedented wave of terror had been directed against those who participated in the civil rights movement in the South (Jones, 2016). Some of the particulars of the advertisement were false. Although the advertisement did not mention the Plaintiff by name, he claimed that it referred to him indirectly because he had oversight responsibility of the police. The Defendant claimed that it authorized publication of the advertisement because it did not have any reason to believe that its contents were false. There was no independent effort to check its accuracy. The Plaintiff demanded that the Defendant retract the advertisement. The police commissioner, L. B. Sullivan, took offense to the ad and sued the New York Times in an Alabama court. Sullivan argued that the ad had damaged his reputation, and he had been libeled. The Alabama court ruled in favor of Sullivan, finding that the newspaper ad falsely represented the police department and Sullivan. After losing an appeal in the Supreme Court of Alabama, the New York Times took its case to the United States Supreme Court arguing that the ad was not meant to hurt Sullivan 's reputation and was protected under the First Amendment. (Oyez.org)

NY Times Position
The descriptions of events that occu...


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... Times acted with malice towards him. Since the published article never mentioned Sullivan there was almost no possible way he could win this argument and prove the article acted with malice towards him. Although the New York Times was deemed not responsible for the publishing of a false argument that they did not read over, should news companies be responsible for the validity of articles they publish? To what end are companies like the New York Times not going to be held responsible for failing to proof read articles? Regardless of the gray area, Sullivan lost this case as a direct result of the Supreme Court establishing how it would rule on cases of defamation and libel for generations to come. This case will always be remembered as the landmark case determining and outlining the extent of free speech and the freedom of the press. (Bill of Rights Institute)


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