Friday, August 18, 2006

Reckless Disregard For Truth

Newspaper editorialists are quite fond of looking down their noses at those who play fast and loose with the truth. They like to depict those who spin or lie as beneath contempt, slimy, dirty, despicable, and evil.

Given that, how can they possibly rationalize today's drive-by smearing of Supreme Court Justice John Roach?

You might not like John Roach. You might hate him and want him to lose this November and go away. Even so, you can't justify the treatment he got on the editorial page in today's CJ.

They define a campaign poll by Justice Roach they haven't seen as a "low down, dirty poll." They turn a "no comment" answer to another paper into "his handlers at first wouldn't even admit ... they had conducted the survey." That would be the low-down, dirty survey they have never seen, but feel compelled to comment on nonetheless. The paper states without attribution to any source (the source happens to be the campaign of Roach's November opponent): "A number of angry voters say they were asked in the phone survey such slimy questions as whether it matters that Mr. Roach's opponent is "married with no children," is "soft on crime" and "feels that judges can create laws if the legislature has failed to act."

This isn't true.

What is important is The Courier Journal might know that it isn't true. What is critical is they should show some kind of discretion when they aren't sure what the truth is.

That is what libel laws are for.

It is tempting -- and perhaps prudent -- to ignore the wild spinning from Judge Mary Noble's campaign. Having the state's most venerable newspaper vilify him may be a net-positive for Justice Roach.

But today's editorial provides an open-and-shut case of libel and it would be fun to watch the pointy-heads at the CJ have to defend the indefensible when it counts.