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New York Times in Legal Hot Water?

Tuesday, 26 Feb 2008 02:00 PM

By James Hirsen

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Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Academy Rejects Public's Fave 'Juno'
2. New York Times in Legal Hot Water?
3. Will Smith Gets Apology and Compensation for 'Hitler' Hit Piece
4. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie To Become Catholics?
5. CBS' TV Serial Killer Hero

1. Academy Rejects Public's Fave 'Juno'

The Oscar trend continues with members of the Academy seemingly living in a different universe than the film-going public.

Mostly shunned at the 80th Annual Academy Awards was the uplifting, light-hearted surprise hit "Juno" (though it did win Best Original Screenplay), but honored with major awards were two dark and violent offerings; this despite the fact that "Juno" had a significantly greater box-office take than any of its competitors.

"No Country for Old Men," a story about an insane murderer, took Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture trophies, while "There Will Be Blood," the tale of a brutally sadistic oil tycoon, was the recipient of Best Cinematography and Best Actor gold statues.

Hollywood ignored the box office and turned a blind's eye to a recent Reuters/E-Poll survey as well, one in which "Juno" beat the competition again. In a poll of 1,100 adults, 29 percent of respondents chose "Juno" for best picture; 25 percent picked "No Country For Old Men"; and 20 percent chose "Atonement."

More significantly, the survey confirmed the growing gap between fans and Academy voters. About 72 percent said the Academy's best film choices were influenced by critics and Hollywood insiders.


2. New York Times in Legal Hot Water?

It looks as though, in its recent piece on John McCain, The New York Times may have breached more than just journalistic ethics.

The New York Times v. Sullivan is a landmark case that initiated a series of Supreme Court decisions. As a result of the legal precedents that followed, it ultimately became much more difficult for public figures (as opposed to private ones) to sue a newspaper for defamation.

The second paragraph of the Times piece stated: "Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his [McCain's] top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself — instructing staff members to block the woman's access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity."

If the sexual innuendo embodied in the article is indeed false, McCain would have a difficult time bringing a lawsuit because of his public figure status.

Not so when it comes to the woman in the story. Telecommunications lobbyist Vicki Iseman is arguably a private figure whose reputation is at stake in the Times' tabloid-tongued tale.

The sexually tinged allegations in the piece are based solely on two anonymous sources, both of whom are former campaign aides of the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.

After the McCain article ran, Clark Hoyt, Ombudsman of The New York Times, determined that the newspaper should not have published the story because it did not properly establish the alleged sexual relationship between McCain and Iseman.

According to Hoyt, most of the readers of the Times saw the report as a story about illicit sex.

If a lawsuit does ensue, Hoyt may find out that, on a list of witnesses for the plaintiff, he's numero uno.


3. Will Smith Gets Apology and Compensation for 'Hitler' Hit Piece

Will Smith found out firsthand why the U.K. media are more careful than the U.S.

A lawsuit was filed in Britain over an article titled "Smith: Hitler Was A Good Person," which was published by the World Entertainment News Network (WENN).

Rachel Atkins, Smith's lawyer (referred to in the U.K. as "solicitor"), told London's High Court that the "I Am Legend" star believed Hitler to be "a vile and heinous man." Atkins indicated that claims about Smith having stated in an interview that Hitler was a good person were "false and without any foundation." The counselor added that the article "wholly" misrepresented "the claimant's actual words, given in an interview to the Daily Record, a Scottish newspaper and website."

John Melville-Smith, the attorney for WENN, apologized for statements that "were misleading and published in error."

Smith was also paid an undisclosed sum for damages and costs.

Maybe The New York Times is taking notes.


4. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to Become Catholics?

Brad Pitt is reportedly about to take Angelina Jolie as his lawfully wedded wife.

The famed duo have supposedly chosen to tie the knot in New Orleans, the city to which Pitt and Jolie have generously donated millions of dollars and much of their time to help rebuild.

According to The Star magazine, Brad and Angelina are in the process of drafting a pre-nup.

The Malibu couple has also picked out the place where the two of them would like to exchange wedding vows, New Orleans' stunningly beautiful St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square.

There's a problem, though, in that neither Brad nor Angelina are Roman Catholics. Pitt was raised as a Southern Baptist, and Jolie is not affiliated with any organized religious group.

"A marriage at St. Louis Cathedral would have to be a Catholic marriage, witnessed by Catholic celebrants," says Sarah Comiskey, spokesperson for the Archdiocese.

In other words, in order to get married in the cathedral, the couple will have to become Catholic Christians, which even in The Big Easy may be harder than they expect.


5. CBS' TV Serial Killer Hero

Leave it to the execs at CBS.

Partially motivated by the writers' strike, the Eye decided to bring the dark and supposedly edgy cable show, "Dexter," (which was airing on the premium channel Showtime) to a prime time broadcast network slot.

"Dexter" is a CBS hit, bringing in 7 million more viewers than it had on Showtime.

The problem is that the show is terribly violent and presents a twisted moral dilemma unsuitable for the younger set to which it may appeal.

Despite promising to edit the show, the violent scenes are still part of the broadcast version.

An even greater problem, though, is that the hero on "Dexter" is a serial killer who will likely engage in televised mutilation each week.

Critics have praised the show for its anti-hero depiction while ignoring the danger for society of giving a weekly platform to a serial killer character.

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