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In case you have been living under a rock (or in the library like my classmates and myself), Tiger Woods has been caught having an extramarital affair with another woman. Since the story broke a few days ago by National Enquirer, there has been a media storm of coverage. Here’s a link to some of the National Enquirer’s coverage of the story. It’s not the original article, but it shows some of the flavor of its reporting. Other, similar news outlets and news blogs, such as TMZ.com and Perezhilton, have joined in on the racy news heyday. I’ll leave it to you to peruse those outlets on your own time.
In addition to the tabloid-fest, some reputable news sources have provided daily coverage of the events leading up to Woods’ revelation of the affair on his own website. Until Tiger came out on his own to clear the air, there was no telling the difference between truth or fiction in the enormous funnel-cloud of gossip swirling around in the blogosphere.
There has also been much published opinion regarding whether the degree of media interest Tiger’s personal life has generated borders on the unethical. Whether you agree or disagree with all of the media attention Tiger’s personal life has been receiving, legally speaking, there probably isn’t a thing wrong with it. The Supreme Court made clear in the 1960s, in the seminal case New York Times v. Sullivan, that a public figure such as Tiger Woods has no claim for defamation, libel, slander, or invasion of privacy unless the public figure can prove that the speaker/invader acted with malice–the intent to harm the public figure.
It is doubtful, here, that Tiger could prove that any of these media outlets acted with the required malice. First of all, it’s generally difficult to prove malice–essentially another person’s thoughts–in any type of case. Here, unless you have something beyond just circumstantial evidence, like a smoking-gun email for instance, it probably won’t happen. Furthermore, he took a five-iron to the grill. It’s doubtful that anyone but the most sadistic among us would want to cause poor Tiger any excess harm at this point.
– Brent Baxley
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