12/14/2004 Add a comment

Ernest B. Murphy, a superior court judge in Massachusetts, has filed a lawsuit against the Boston Herald for a "malicious and relentless campaign of libel unprecedented in the history of this Commonwealth." The initial story called Murphy's conduct toward victims in his courtroom "heartlessly demean[ing]" and alleged that he said a 14-year-old rape victim should "get over it." Murphy contends he said no such thing.

With the rise in reporter-cum-talking heads filling up the hours on cable news networks with plenty of airtime to spare, the story had legs beyond the pages of the Herald, and especially on Fox News. Reporter Dave Wedge's said with certainty on "The O'Reilly Factor" that Murphy made the statement to three lawyers, but in statements under oath repeatedly answered that he didn't know or didn't recall answers to questions about his reporting.

Some think the outcome of this case will reduce the roles reporters play on TV shoutfest programs, but I'm not so sure. Newspapers and reporters might be a little more careful with TV, but it's a seductive medium for the reporters and good publicity for the newspapers. William