Coal Magnate’s Lawsuit Tossed—But Ohio Can Do More To Defend Free Press

"Michael Stark, a contributor to The Huffington Post. Ken Ward, a reporter for The Charleston Gazette. Margaret Newkirk, a former reporter for the Akron Beacon Journal. What do they have in common? Murray Energy, the largest privately owned coal company in the United States—which has accused them all of publishing defamatory articles about the company or its founder and president, Robert E. Murray.

They’re not the only ones. In the last 15 years, Murray and/or his company, whose operations dot the Ohio Valley, have also sued a team of journalists at Ohio’s Chagrin Valley Times; and threatened to sue Steve Fiscor, editor of Coal Age and Engineering & Mining Journal, and R. Larry Grayson, a writer and professor emeritus of energy and mineral engineering at Penn State University.

At least one of those cases is ongoing, and none has produced a judgment on the merits for the plaintiffs—instead the cases have settled, or the journalists so far have prevailed on pre-trial motions. Just this month, on May 12, a federal judge in Ohio dismissed Murray’s claims against Stark for defamation and false light invasion of privacy. A few days earlier, a state judge in Ohio granted the Chagrin Valley Times’ motion for summary judgment in a case Murray brought in 2012. (He’s filing an appeal.)"

Jonathan Peters reports for Columbia Journalism Review May 28, 2014.

Friday, May 30, 2014