Friday, April 30, 2010

In My Opinion-Shaun Gallagher-Is GQ Magazine Article Defamatory?


In My Opinion-Shaun Gallagher
So as I'm sure you're well aware...and if you're not...Marvin Harrison has had ties to trouble in Philadelphia. He grew up in a bad neighborhood he ran with a rough crowd but he fought adversity to become one of the top wide receivers in the history of the NFL. So when news of a shooting at his car wash surfaced, many were shocked that this quiet, "do good" player was rumored to be involved. While it may be tough to know what exactly happened the day of the shooting, one thing that is known is that Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham has publicly stated that there are no charges against Marvin Harrison and she came to this conclusion because there are “nine or so various versions” of witness accounts (http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/colts/2009-01-06-harrison_N.htm).
That being said, any reasonable reporter would not put together a story about what happened that day and you especially would not make Marvin Harrison guilty within an article about the topic. But Jason Fagone of GQ Magazine wrote an entire re-enactment of what happened that day. It starts out with the sentence “It was a scene* to make anybody stop and watch.” The asterisk leads to a note at the very bottom of the page, that says the story is "Re-created from interviews, court filings, and police reports, and told through the eyes of Robert Nixon." There is no need for this note to be at the bottom of the article unless you are trying to make Harrison look guilty. Fagone could have easily had the first sentence say "This story re-creation is generated from the words of Robert Nixon, interviews, court filings and police reports," then it could go into the story. But Fagone acted in a reckless manner by using the asterisk that the average reader would probably miss.
The article goes on to make Harrison seem like Denzel Washington in Training Day with guns a blazing. After reading Condit v. Dunne, 225 F.R.D. 100, (2004), I immediately thought of this article and that Harrison would have a good chance if he were to bring a case against Fagone. The only difference is that Harrison wasn’t really hurt by the article. He had retired from the league months before, he’s settled with his life as it is and he is known to be quiet to the media. Therefore, to not do anything about the article is atypical of Harrison because he doesn’t want to be in the public eye about the subject.
If this were to go to trial I believe that Harrison would win because he is a public figure and he would have to prove actual malice. After reviewing the Condit V. Dunne in clss, we know that if he could prove that he was hurt by the article, Harrison and company could win the case.
Fagone of GQ Magazine and Dominick Dunne wrote in a very similar medium. They both are in an area of the media that is not really considered “hard news” so they may feel they can get away with more. The only problem is they are defaming these public figures. Whether it is an athlete or public official these people are still humans who have to live with what these writers are saying about them. Dunne and Fagone are both making enormous accusations about both Condit and Harrison being murders or at the very least being a part of the murders.

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