The Expanding Constitutional Protection for the News Media from Liability for Defamation: Predictability and the New Synthesis

The tort of defamation has a long and complex history dating back to the sixteenth century. Though this tort from the very beginning did not find favor with the law courts, it has managed to survive into the second half of the twentieth century. But this survival may not endure much longer since the Supreme Court has found a deep conflict between the law of defamation and the first amendment. The reasons for this conflict and the Supreme Court’s basic resolution of it in favor of first amendment values have been the subject of much scholarly comment, but the Court’s recent decisions require further exploration of the complex synthesis worked out by New York Times Co. v. Sullivan and its progeny.