Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal, Vol. 9, No. 1 (Autumn 1998), pp. 45-65. Copyright 1998 Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal and James F. Ponsoldt.


This Essay analyzes defamation law as it applies to the media. Part I summarizes the state of defamation law prior to the 1990 Supreme Court decision in Milkovich v. Lorain Journal Co., when opinion was presumed immune from liability. Part II examines the holding in Milkovich, which suggests the potential liability for recklessly defamatory statements couched as or in the context of opinion. Part III reviews post-Milkovich decisions during the 1990's. This Essay concludes that the predictions of Milkovich were accurate in many jurisdictions and could apply to televised allegations during the coverage of the Clinton affair. The defamation law alternative to media self-regulation awaits only additional plaintiffs, like Blumenthal or perhaps non-public figures, to help the media serve the public interest by exercising media self-restraint and curtailing the destruction of individual reputations.