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Copyright (c) 2001 Alabama Law Review
Alabama Law Review

COMMENTARY: Who Watches the Watchdogs?: The Status of Newsgathering Torts Against the Media in Light of the Food Lion Reversal

Winter, 2001

52 Ala. L. Rev. 675


Enrique J. Gimenez


Investigative reporters . . . are the guard dogs of society, but the trouble with guard dogs is that they sometimes attack with equal fervor the midnight burglar and the midday mailman. 1


The media have always been deemed informers of the public, a "Fourth Estate" obligated to protect and educate the masses with regard to the conduct of the officials who represent and affect them and the organizations created to facilitate such representation. 2 This power, however, is often misconstrued in the shrouded legal arena that newsgathering torts occupy. The informational capacity of the media often transcends its intended reportorial nature and instead is broadened into a creative, instigating power. The role of the media is to report the news, to inform. It is not intended to "make" or "create" the news.

The rise of intrusions during newsgathering, in conjunction with new technology, makes the media more invasive than ever before. 3 "Moreover, most commentators agree that the increase in media intrusions is the result of increasing competition for ratings and profits rather than an increasing desire to serve the public interest." 4 As the media have begun to blur the distinction between news reporting and news making, the privacy rights that remain unavoidably intertwined with the media's limited constitutional protection have begun to suffer.

Part I of this Comment will examine the lack of First Amendment protection for newsgathering and differentiate the often confused (or ignored) protection provided to publication. "Press freedom is not freedom from ...
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