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Let's be careful out there ....

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    Let's be careful out there ....

    Dale Flick just reminded me of something that I supposedly have known for decades, and that we all should remember: saying something derogatory about an individual in a public forum (e.g., a message board) can constitute defamation. Moreover, in broad legal terms, corporations are viewed as individuals. So if I were to post that the CEO of XYZ Corp. is stupid, crooked, and ugly, I could get myself and the message board sued (especially if the exec is not actually ugly); I could bring on similar trouble by posting that XYZ Corp. is engaging in deceptive or fraudulent activity by claiming to pursue A while actually pursuing B. I could win a defamation case by demonstrating that my claim is true, but the burden of proof is on me.

    A good simple statement of the ruling principle is that "a communication is defamatory if it tends so to harm the reputation of another as to lower him in the estimation of the community or to deter third persons from associating or dealing with him." By that measure, my recent snide comment about a certain executive and future career opportunities as a hotel manager are in the clear, but only because it was encased in hypotheticals and not directed to influential folk in the hospitality industry. Qualifiers like "If ... then" and "there is some evidence to suggest ..." are usually exculpatory.

    What a shame. Defamation is so wonderfully cathartic.

    Dave V.

    Hi, David & steamboating colleagues:
    David's words are wise following on my previous posting Re: letters, E=Mails etc. as gleaned from a legal friend and organizational colleague here. The work on behalf of the DELTA QUEEN on this board is wonderful and we all continue to do our part at times quietly with letters and calls. It is not my intent to discourage David any of us in this project. I earned my scars and bruises from 40 + years of civic, political and social action in Cincinnati, Ohio and with congressional reps in Washington, D.C. as president for four years of our Civic Association here. Hours and hours sitting in City Hall and State House meetings. Yes, I was a young 'activist' in the full sense of the terms from 1960s on. These representatives aren't always going to reply or say what we want just because we voted them into office. As my family humorously ribs me, "You're just one in the bunch by yourself." The DELTA QUEEN is owned by a for-profit company and I think it prudent to have their knowledge, in-put, approval before delving into any public announcements on the DQ matter. I can testify to nothing more sobering that a phone call from so and so's executive secretary or a letter bearing a most impressive name of a law firm. It all worked out for me, but I never forgot.

    David, and others, asked privately for my experiences not only working on Betty Blake's early campaign initiative on the DQ, but for the Str. W.P. SNYDER owned by the Ohio Historical Society moored at the Ohio River Museum, Marietta. The SNYDER falls under public domain--not an owning company. I provided them with my views, experiences and opinions. Like David, Jo Ann, and others, my mail in envelopes was individually typed and went out by the pound--not the piece. Answers, one way or the other, came back from all of them at Columbus. Some of my files and records on that initiative--along with the first 'Tall Stacks' here--are on deposit at the Cincinnati Public Library. Other papers I kept here for reference or copies of same. I asked the OHS and S&D of Pioneer Rivermen first for their approval spelling out what I was doing. Full cooperation came and I moved ahead. The project ran from 1985 to 1988 when the SNYDER was returned to Marietta by Capt. John Beatty. Betty Blake and I were fellow members here in PRSA [Public Relations Society of America] until her sudden illness and death at far too early an age. Betty earned much credit and praise working for the company that employed her. She also had many other consultants in the PR and political action arena to advise her. Betty did well...very well...but also knew how to have 'fun' with it.

    Corporations and privately held entitities today need to be dealt with carefully. They often, from what I see here, are highly protective of the corporate names, logos, products. One mighty concern here locally not named watch, sleuth for mention of their name, products and logos and not above handing out law suits like candy--and winning. David is correct in his communications to me that times have indeed changed. A number of you are lucky in posting that you received communications from your representatives and the media. We move ahead with intent, positive words and hope for the best. I learned long ago to win and lose graciously. We hope this effort will win. David is one man who impressed me with his insights from frist reading his postings in addition to those of Bob Blomberg. Jo Ann's great work goes without saying.

    R. Dale Flick