Steve J. Jasper


The law of defamation has evolved along a curious path. It is caught in the middle of a legal tug-of-war between the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment and each state’s interest in allowing its citizens to protect their reputations from being dragged through the mud. The Supreme Court of the United States and State of Missouri continue their efforts to strike a proper balance between these interests by tinkering with the element required for defamation claim and by creating privileges that prevent defamation liability. One of Missouri’s attempts to strike this proper balance is found in its adoption of the fair report privilege. This privilege prevents defamation liability based on a defamatory statement that fairly and accurately reports information taken from official actions or proceedings. In Kenney v. Scripps Howard Broadcasting Co., the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit held that Missouri’s fair report privilege protected a television station from defamation liability for its new report that grandmother was suspected of kidnaping her granddaughter. This Note evaluates why the court reached this decision, why applying the fair report privilege was erroneous and unnecessary and the potential dangers of the court’s holding.

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