If exaggerated reports of global economic distress act to further dampen consumer confidence and actually worsen the situation, can press outlets be held legally liable?
Such was espoused by a corporate lawyer Thursday in response to a poll that found 77 percent of Americans "think the financial press is making the economic crisis worse by projecting fear into people's minds."
The survey question: "Do you think the financial press is making the economic crisis worse by projecting fear into people's minds?" While the overall response indicated that 77% of Americans answered YES, here are highlights of note: Household Incomes: $25k - $35k -- 79% answered YES $35k - $50k -- 88% answered YES $50k - $75k -- 76% answered YES $75k - more -- 78% answered YES Demographics: 85% of young adults (18-24 yrs old) answered YES 77% of males and females alike answered YES 65% of blacks answered YES
Richard L. Scheff, a national expert on corporate liability and white collar crime issues, warns media that they could potentially be exposed to liability despite apparent constitutional protections:
"Although statements by the media are protected by the First Amendment, the survey results demonstrate that the public believes that the press bears some responsibility for the lack of confidence in the economy. One would hope that the media would act less out of self-interest in these times of national crisis," said Mr. Scheff, vice chairman and partner with Philadelphia-based law firm Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads.