When can you sue a media organization?

A primer on libel and slander for PR professionals.

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In my experience, spokespersons who angrily threaten to “sue those media bastards” are usually just issuing idle threats in the heat of the moment.

Fortunately, most of them are able to handle their grievances in ways that don’t require lawyers, such as: requesting a correction, using social media to correct the record, working with competing—and more favorable—news organizations to balance the coverage, or just letting it go.

But in rare circumstances, the legal system may be your best option, particularly if you’re the target of reckless or purposefully bad reporting by reporters.

I asked my attorney (and childhood friend) Erik Pelton to help me make sense of libel and slander laws. His firm, Erik M. Pelton & Associates, specializes in intellectual property and social media issues, so he knows his stuff.

Here’s what he explained:

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