Complaint of Defamation: How to Write a News Story on a Legal Document.

January 17, 2017


Writing this news story in particular requires a lengthy report due to the lengthiness of the lawsuit. It is a complex lawsuit that not a lot of people will completely understand. So when you sit down to write your news story, be sure to include these specific elements.

The lead- a summary lead or an identification lead; what exactly is this story entailing? How can your lead capture the attention of your readers while also giving them the information they need? Upside down pyramid. EX: “the brother of former beauty queen…”

The context- what is the CBS production, and a summary of the legal document. Include that this case is unsolved and controversial; that the series aired on the 20th anniversary of JonBenets death.

Defamation- definition; what does it mean?

Direct Quotes- taken directly from the legal document with attribution; his lawyers say, the complaint says, etc.

*NEXT, look at other reports of the lawsuit to compare your news story to it; looking at headline, lead, context, and direct quotes that these reports use.

EXAMPLES:

1. Denver Post

  • LEAD: “The brother of JonBenét Ramsey has filed a lawsuit seeking $750 million against CBS Corp., saying the broadcast company produced a fraudulent documentary that slandered him by accusing him of striking and killing his sister with a flashlight in 1996.”
  • CONTEXT: “The defendants in the case also include Critical Content LLC, a California programming studio; former FBI profilers Jim Clemente, James Fitzgerald and Stanley Burke; forensic expert Laura Richards; former Boulder district attorney’s investigator A. James Kolar; forensic scientist Dr. Werner Spitz; and celebrity pathologist Henry Lee.”
  • CONTEXT: “The program, “The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey,” was released as the 20th anniversary of the 6-year-old beauty queen’s death in Boulder was approaching. It was viewed by more than 10 million people, the lawsuit says.”
  • ATTRIBUTION: “CBS and Critical Content knowingly and intentionally published false and defamatory statements conveying that Burke killed JonBenét, engaged in a criminal coverup with his parents and lied to the police,” the lawsuit says.”
  • ATTRIBUTION: “No evidence suggesting Burke’s involvement in JonBenét’s death has ever been discovered and, because he is innocent, does not exist,” the lawsuit says. “As far back as 1998, law enforcement authorities responsible for the JonBenét Ramsey murder investigation have repeatedly, publicly and unequivocally cleared Burke Ramsey of any involvement in the death of his sister.”

2. Law Newz

  • SUMMARY LEAD: Burke Ramsey, the brother of JonBenet Ramsey, has filed a $750 million defamation lawsuit against CBS for a special, The Case of: JonBenet Ramseythat the network aired earlier this year to investigate the murder of the young beauty queen on the 20th anniversary of her death. The lawsuit, filed by Ramsey’s longtime attorney Lin Wood and an attorney in Michigan, accuses CBS of intentionally ignoring mountains of evidence, including police and District Attorney statements which exonerated the Ramsey family, and instead falsely pointing the finger at Burke, who was 9 at the time, as the one who murdered his sister.  The lawsuit also names several of the experts featured in the two part documentary series, including Jim Clemente, Laura Richards, James Kolar James R Fitzgerald, Stanley Burke, Werner Spitzer, Henry Lee, and Critical Content, the outside production company that helped to produce the documentary.”

3. CNN

  • HEADLINE: “JonBenet Ramsey brother files lawsuit against CBS over murder miniseries”

  • LEAD: “Burke Ramsey, 29, is suing the network, a production company and a host of contributors behind “The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey,” a four-hour miniseries that aired over the course of two days in September. He says the program falsely accused him of murdering his sister, who was six years old when she was brutally killed inside her family’s Colorado home.”
  • LEAD: “The brother of JonBenét Ramsey, the slain child beauty queen whose grisly murder captivated the nation 20 years ago, filed a defamation lawsuit on Wednesday against CBS and several others over a televised special about the mysterious death.”
  • ATTRIBUTION: “The complaint added: “While Defendants’ false accusations against Burke echo the accusations made against him by supermarket tabloids years ago, the key difference is that this time, the accusation was published by the most respected member of the American broadcast media, CBS.”
  • CONTEXT: “Ramsey is seeking no less than $250 million in compensatory damages and no less than $500 million in punitive damages, according to the complaint.”
  • CONTEXT: “The case, which remains unsolved, has sparked two decades’ worth of conspiracy theories and speculation. In a complaint filed in Michigan court on Wednesday, a lawyer for Burke Ramsey asserts that law enforcement has “repeatedly, publicly and unequivocally” cleared his client of any involvement in the death, and that “CBS perpetrated a fraud upon the public.”

4. TODAY

  • HEADLINE: “JonBenet Ramsey’s brother Burke files $750M defamation suit against CBS”

  • LEAD: “In the CBS documentary miniseries “The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey,” investigators reviewing the still unsolved 1996 murder theorized that JonBenét’s brother Burke Ramsey might have fatally struck his 6-year-old sister with a flashlight. Now Burke is seeking $750 million in a defamation lawsuit against CBS and the experts.”


New Case Study

Michelle Kehoe

Research the case by looking at one video- and one video only. Use the video as evidence and write about it; as if the readers won’t watch the video so your story must describe what happened in court. Raw footage straight from the trail. Not interested in the media coverage.

You choose which video to choose, as in you’re choosing which part of trial you will get to see; the verdict, the testimony, witness accounts, etc. Pick one. You’re the media covering what happened in court. Write a report. File under homework. 

Revise your news story on the complaint of defamation. File news story under homework. 

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