Got Windmills – “…Don’t Mess With Hawai`i Bloggers”

I’m very thankful of the support I’ve been receiving regarding the Texas attorney who is thinking of suing my blog for my write up on December 8th about the Umauma Ziplines.

Andy Parx of Got Windmills today wrote a post entitled “My Oh My What a Wonderful Day” where he describes one of the oldest tricks in the books that lawyers like to scare people with and that is the cease and desist letter.

Parx writes more about the differences between journalist and bloggers stating:

… With the advent of “bloggers” the question is whether, when they engage in the act of reporting, they are de facto journalists. While many of the more stogy practitioners may argue for all sorts of self-serving and exclusionary rules for what a journalist is or isn’t, there’s still “no license required. ”

In fact, after much debate our own Hawai`i state reporters’ “shield law” essentially defines a reporter by the act of reporting- something bloggers do every day whether, like Ian they consider themselves journalists or, like Damon and Larry, not.

In this case Damon simply reported on the situation, citing and naming his source. Whether or not “The Umauma Experience” is actually safe or not his report is true in that the story is that two co-owners are alleging they are not safe.

And in libel cases, truth is the ultimate defense…

I just wanted to say thanks for all the support that I have been getting on this. I really didn’t want to stir the pot so much as to just let folks know that KapohoKine was opening a new zipline course. In the course of things… I guess we all may learn a lesson or two.

I really like the way Parx finished his post….

“…The other lesson may be that, even if you’re from Texas, don’t mess with Hawai`i bloggers.”

3 Responses

  1. Damon — I don’t think Andy’s correct on this one. Yes, truth is a defense to libel in this country, but merely quoting a source accurately is NOT sufficient.

    Assuming for the moment that the company is not a public figure (like a politician would be) but acknowledging that the matter is of public interest, the lawsuit would need to prove either that you acted with actual malice or reckless disregard for the truth.

    You would likely argue that you had a reasonable belief that the zipline was unsafe. A jury might be asked to determine if your belief was reasonable or if you were reckless. That’s the burden us journalists are held to.

    It’s quite possible that they’re just trying to scare you, and you might very well win in court, but proving that you quoted your source accurately is probably not enough to end the conversation.

    Michael Levine
    Honolulu Civil Beat

    • I don’t believe I posted my “Belief” anywhere… What I posted was what was said to me by two co-owners of KapohoKine who operated and ran the Zipline tours.

      I would assume the operator(s) of the tour would know more about them then myself… although I didn’t state that anywhere.

      • Fair enough. I think Ian makes a good point when he says you’re relaying a consumer experience. I think you’ll probably be fine. My main point was that it’s not enough to just quote people accurately and shift the responsibility to them. That’s not how libel law works.

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