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Old 01-02-2020, 02:29 PM
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Threats of legal actions gets you banned but...


I have no problem with this rule, but am curious as to why that particular act is considered more heinous than threatening harm. I know threatening harm could get one banned but strict reading of the rules implies you may or may not be, but legal threats will. Why the distinction?

Last edited by BwanaBob; 01-02-2020 at 02:29 PM.
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Old 01-02-2020, 02:33 PM
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IIRC, it's because legal action would likely lead to the dissolution of the board (i.e. they're not able to pay for a lawyer).
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Old 01-02-2020, 02:37 PM
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Don't the owners have full-time legal council on staff? Also, say person X threatens legal action. They get banned. But the board would still need legal representation, so the banning has no effect other than removing an irritant. That doesn't explain why threatening harm isn't as serious a matter.

Last edited by BwanaBob; 01-02-2020 at 02:40 PM.
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Old 01-02-2020, 02:50 PM
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Don't the owners have full-time legal council on staff?
If it costs money to run the SDMB, the boards will be shut down. Anything involving lawyers costs money. I'm not sure why you think STM Reader (the current owners) have full time legal staff.
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Old 01-02-2020, 02:55 PM
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I guess I assumed they were a larger organization.
Still, that doesn't explain why legal threats get banning and harm threats don't, or at least they might not.
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Old 01-02-2020, 03:01 PM
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Generally, if someone is threatening legal action then you want to have a lawyer review anything you say to or about them to make sure you don't screw up your side of the lawsuit. Banning people means you don't have to say anything to them other than a boilerplate 'banned for legal threats' message. The board would only need legal representation if they actually manage to present enough of a case to get a lawyer or get into an actual court, which people threatening to sue message boards generally can't manage to actually do - most legal threats online are just hot air. Banning the person makes it so the mods/admins don't have to worry about what they say to or about the person and removes the chance for anything they do to make the issue worse. Threatening harm is different, as most of the time it's someone making vague threats, and the board feels that evaluating whether someone is making a real concrete threat or not is just using overblown language.

And like Telemark, I have no idea why you think STM Reader has full time legal staff, much less full time legal staff dedicated to reviewing this message board.
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Old 01-02-2020, 03:07 PM
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Generally, if someone is threatening legal action then you want to have a lawyer review anything you say to or about them to make sure you don't screw up your side of the lawsuit. Banning people means you don't have to say anything to them other than a boilerplate 'banned for legal threats' message. The board would only need legal representation if they actually manage to present enough of a case to get a lawyer or get into an actual court, which people threatening to sue message boards generally can't manage to actually do - most legal threats online are just hot air. Banning the person makes it so the mods/admins don't have to worry about what they say to or about the person and removes the chance for anything they do to make the issue worse. Threatening harm is different, as most of the time it's someone making vague threats, and the board feels that evaluating whether someone is making a real concrete threat or not is just using overblown language.

And like Telemark, I have no idea why you think STM Reader has full time legal staff, much less full time legal staff dedicated to reviewing this message board.
I said nothing about staff dedicated to reviewing the message board. I thought they might have 1 or 2 lawyers around who would review contracts. I've worked for smaller companies where sometimes the small (read single digits) staff didn't do very much; they were there as a "precautionary" measure.
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Old 01-02-2020, 03:56 PM
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I said nothing about staff dedicated to reviewing the message board. I thought they might have 1 or 2 lawyers around who would review contracts. I've worked for smaller companies where sometimes the small (read single digits) staff didn't do very much; they were there as a "precautionary" measure.
Keep in mind that the Straight Dope and its parent company were recently sold for the grand total of one dollar (Sass, 2017). But in all seriousness they run the second largest newspaper in Chicago, I'm sure they have a lawyer who reviews articles before publication. But STM Reader doesn't seem to involve themselves in the day to day operation of these message boards, and we probably want to keep it that way. The lawyers are there to avoid libel and defamation in the flagship business, not to review every staff post for some message board on the side.

Sass, Eric. (2017, July 18). 'Chicago Sun-Times' Sold For $1. MediaPost. Retrieved January 1, 2020 from https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/304448/chicago-sun-times-sold-for-1.html

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Last edited by Max S.; 01-02-2020 at 03:56 PM. Reason: before publication
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Old 01-02-2020, 03:59 PM
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Generally, if someone is threatening legal action then you want to have a lawyer review anything you say to or about them to make sure you don't screw up your side of the lawsuit. Banning people means you don't have to say anything to them other than a boilerplate 'banned for legal threats' message.
Other than wanting to avoid the cost of assigning a (internal or external) lawyer to deal with a lawsuit, this would be the other reason. NOT banning the person means continuing to interact with them in various ways that may be used in a court of law.

It's the board equivalent of telling someone "Please leave my place of business and have your lawyer contact my lawyer if you have anything else to say to me."
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Old 01-02-2020, 04:22 PM
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Okay, you all seem to have latched onto the legal part of my question. I get that part.
And BTW, I was under the impression a staff lawyer gets a flat salary, so there is no extra cost of them reviewing matters or representing in court. But no matter.

I was asking why "threatening harm" isn't met with automatic banning as well. After all threats can lead to legal issues.
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Old 01-02-2020, 04:29 PM
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I said nothing about staff dedicated to reviewing the message board. I thought they might have 1 or 2 lawyers around who would review contracts. I've worked for smaller companies where sometimes the small (read single digits) staff didn't do very much; they were there as a "precautionary" measure.
I have literally never heard of a company with under 60 people who keeps a lawyer as a staff member where that lawyer isn't doing a significant amount of legal work. That sounds utterly bizarre, as lawyers are pretty expensive and there are plenty of law firms that will contract with you to provide occasional contract review on an hourly basis.

If you look at the staff listing of the 58 staffers at the Chicago Reader, there is no one with 'lawyer' or 'legal' or anything similar in their title, which leads me to believe that my understanding is correct. https://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/readerstaff/Page

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Keep in mind that the Straight Dope and its parent company were recently sold for the grand total of one dollar (Sass, 2017). But in all seriousness they run the second largest newspaper in Chicago, I'm sure they have a lawyer who reviews articles before publication.
I have never heard of a newspaper having a lawyer on staff who reviews articles daily before publication. They might bring in a lawyer to review a specific article that they are worried might cause a problem, but not a staff lawyer who does that day to day. Do you have any kind of cite for a newspaper following that practice? Again, take a look at the 'staff' page for the Chicago reader abov.
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Old 01-02-2020, 04:36 PM
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I was asking why "threatening harm" isn't met with automatic banning as well. After all threats can lead to legal issues.
Literally any statement anywhere 'can' lead to legal issues, so that's a pointless fact to introduce. There is not a significant risk of the board getting sued from a statement that would get a warning like "We should go to war with all the Muslims" (which does threaten harm against some board members) and so there's no reason to get rid of that poster, while a statement like "[Poster'sName], I am going to come to your house at 323 West Avenue and stab you with a knife" is something that would probably get an instant ban.
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Old 01-02-2020, 04:37 PM
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It's the board equivalent of telling someone "Please leave my place of business and have your lawyer contact my lawyer if you have anything else to say to me."
Yep. Most businesses have a policy along the lines of 'if they threaten to sue, tell them to leave and send any further communications to legal'.
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Old 01-02-2020, 05:31 PM
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They might bring in a lawyer to review a specific article that they are worried might cause a problem
Yes, that's what I mean. I would think they have a go-to firm in case they want to press a particularly sensitive story, charged by the hour.

ETA: Chicago Reader is now distinct from the entity that owns the Straight Dope. The Chicago Sun-Times is a substantially larger newspaper.

~Max

Last edited by Max S.; 01-02-2020 at 05:36 PM.
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Old 01-02-2020, 05:46 PM
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I have no problem with this rule, but am curious as to why that particular act is considered more heinous than threatening harm. I know threatening harm could get one banned but strict reading of the rules implies you may or may not be, but legal threats will. Why the distinction?
I don't know why you think "strict reading of the rules" means threatening harm is a maybe, but threatening legal action is an absolute. Both types of threats are in the same rule.

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Threats - Do not post threats of any kind against the SDMB, Sun-Times Media or their affiliates, including without limitation SDMB posters, staff, advertisers or other entities, regardless of where and how expressed. This includes threats of legal action even if not directed specifically at the SDMB.
Do you have a particular post or something else where a poster wasn't banned for threatening harm?
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Old 01-02-2020, 08:44 PM
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Yep. Most businesses have a policy along the lines of 'if they threaten to sue, tell them to leave and send any further communications to legal'.
Agreed. It is pretty standard. Once you know that an individual is inclined to sue you, it is just common sense to get rid of them instead of having them hang around looking for additional reasons to add to the lawsuit, even if it is without merit.
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Old 01-02-2020, 09:55 PM
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Yes, that's what I mean. I would think they have a go-to firm in case they want to press a particularly sensitive story, charged by the hour.

ETA: Chicago Reader is now distinct from the entity that owns the Straight Dope. The Chicago Sun-Times is a substantially larger newspaper.

~Max
Apparently none of you who question this policy have ever been to court.

Legal costs for anything over small claims court are quite spendy. Do you have an attorney? Ask them what they charge to prepare a case and go to the courthouse on your behalf. You'll be shocked. Somebody's paying for those nice suits and in these situations, it's you.

The Chicago Reader is now a nonprofit. It's a whole different deal over there now.

While the Chicago Sun-Times still owns a piece of the Reader, they are not managing or running the Reader in any way. This has been true for like a couple of years now.

The Chicago Sun-Times is a for-profit organization and someday they might make one, though it's hard going in the dead tree newspaper business these days. It is "larger" than the Reader only by benefit of the fact that it prints daily; the Reader is a weekly. Or was last time I checked; that may have changed as well. (As a side note, look at Creative Loafing, who owned us once upon a time; now they're a MONTHLY.)

It was always the Reader's position that the day they received a lawsuit on our behalf (no matter how frivolous) was the day the SDMB would be closed down. Their attorney informed us that the cost of representing even the most ridiculous lawsuit would be in the tens of thousands of dollars and probably lots more. They weren't going there.

When you look at some of the media lawsuits in the news, when you look closely you will find that someone with an interest -- a wealthy financier or a well-heeled outside organization, a foundation, that kind of thing -- has supplied funds to go to court. We don't know Peter Thiel and we're not hanging with the ACLU, we don't have friends with deep pockets.

There is no reason to believe it's any different for the Sun-Times. We'd like to stay in business if we can. We discourage lawsuits. In the same way the guillotine discourages recidivism.

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Old 01-03-2020, 12:47 AM
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I was asking why "threatening harm" isn't met with automatic banning as well. After all threats can lead to legal issues.
I suspect it's because there are different levels of threats of harm. There are threats that are definitely legal issues, like if you directly threaten another poster in a way they'd be reasonably afraid you'd actually harm them. Those are clearly legal issues, and I would expect to be a bannable offense.

However, there are also more rhetorical threats, like "I would punch someone if they said that to me in real life." Those are also against the rules, but I don't believe are legally actionable.

There are also statements like "I wish [public figure] was dead," which are arguably not a threat at all, but are treated as such here, as far as the rules are concerned.

So I think the mods want to keep their options open on that one. But they can't when it comes to threats of legal action. They have a mandate from the people in charge to ban these people for reasons stated above. They have no choice, even if the threat is perceived as meant in jest.

Last edited by BigT; 01-03-2020 at 12:48 AM.
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Old 01-03-2020, 01:39 AM
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...



I have never heard of a newspaper having a lawyer on staff who reviews articles daily before publication. They might bring in a lawyer to review a specific article that they are worried might cause a problem, but not a staff lawyer who does that day to day. Do you have any kind of cite for a newspaper following that practice? Again, take a look at the 'staff' page for the Chicago reader abov.
I worked for the Old LA Herald Examiner, and iirc, they had no such person to review all or most articles. I suppose the publisher had one on demand to check certain articles that were doubtful, but I dont remember anyone saying "we'll run this past the legal teams", except for contracts.
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Old 01-03-2020, 01:59 AM
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I worked for the Old LA Herald Examiner, and iirc, they had no such person to review all or most articles. I suppose the publisher had one on demand to check certain articles that were doubtful, but I dont remember anyone saying "we'll run this past the legal teams", except for contracts.
I knew Doug Krekorian and, Sir, you were no Doug Krekorian!!
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Old 01-03-2020, 07:19 AM
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I worked for the Old LA Herald Examiner, and iirc, they had no such person to review all or most articles. I suppose the publisher had one on demand to check certain articles that were doubtful, but I dont remember anyone saying "we'll run this past the legal teams", except for contracts.
Hell, I OWNED two weekly alternative newspapers for several years. I didn't have a lawyer on staff. When a story was that sensitive I went to a law firm for review. It was expensive as hell.
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Old 01-03-2020, 07:47 AM
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If I invited someone into my home and they threatened to sue me for a "free speech violation" or something equally as stupid, I would quickly invite them to leave immediately. For starters, I don't know why someone would even want to stay in my house if they felt as though they weren't given the same courtesies to speak as the rest, so that's just weird. But mostly, if you're coming to MY HOUSE and threatening me because you don't like the way I run my house, you can get the fuck right back out. I'm not letting you stay so you can find another reason to screw up my day and my checkbook.

Last edited by Fiveroptic; 01-03-2020 at 07:52 AM. Reason: I mean, that's how I'd roll. I assume the SDMB would be equally offended at the threat of a lawsuit.
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Old 01-03-2020, 07:51 AM
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I was asking why "threatening harm" isn't met with automatic banning as well. After all threats can lead to legal issues.
Some things go without saying. If you offed a moderator you'd be banned but that doesn't need to be specified, it's a given as is threatening harm. Threatening legal action however is another thing and would need specifying.
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Old 01-03-2020, 07:54 AM
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Some things go without saying. If you offed a moderator you'd be banned
Nah, everything can be "rules-lawyered" if you're persistent.
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Old 01-03-2020, 08:07 AM
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Speaking for myself here - and not for STM or Tubadiva or anyone else - you must realize that the top goal here is survival of the SDMB. Not discussion, not community, not anything. If the board doesn't survive then nothing else matters.

Given the stated nature from on high that 'any lawsuit shuts things down' our zero tolerance policy makes sense. It's the only sensible thing we can do.
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Old 01-03-2020, 08:48 AM
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Yes, that's what I mean. I would think they have a go-to firm in case they want to press a particularly sensitive story, charged by the hour.
That's nothing at all like BwanaBob's idea that they have a lawyer on staff who isn't doing much most of the time, and therefore can review the entire message history of a litigious poster and everyone talking to him, then offer a legal opinion on what to say to said poster without anyone paying extra money. "Charged by the hour" is pretty key there, it's a lot more cost effective to just ban someone than to drag in a charge-by-the-hour lawyer to oversee interactions with them.
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Old 01-03-2020, 09:12 AM
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That's nothing at all like BwanaBob's idea that they have a lawyer on staff who isn't doing much most of the time, and therefore can review the entire message history of a litigious poster and everyone talking to him, then offer a legal opinion on what to say to said poster without anyone paying extra money. "Charged by the hour" is pretty key there, it's a lot more cost effective to just ban someone than to drag in a charge-by-the-hour lawyer to oversee interactions with them.
I never once said that the STM would/could have a lawyer review every message a poster has written.
Please reread the thread.
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Old 01-03-2020, 09:17 AM
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It was always the Reader's position that the day they received a lawsuit on our behalf (no matter how frivolous) was the day the SDMB would be closed down. Their attorney informed us that the cost of representing even the most ridiculous lawsuit would be in the tens of thousands of dollars and probably lots more. They weren't going there.
Without wanting to tempt fate I do have to ask the question, why then do they bother keeping it open at all? Seems like a prime candidate for closing a stable door after the horse has bolted.
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Old 01-03-2020, 09:33 AM
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The answer has always been that we make a small amount of money for our varied - over time - corporate overlords.

We need to make sure that continues.
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Old 01-03-2020, 12:49 PM
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I worked for the Old LA Herald Examiner, and iirc, they had no such person to review all or most articles. I suppose the publisher had one on demand to check certain articles that were doubtful, but I dont remember anyone saying "we'll run this past the legal teams", except for contracts.
I worked for several of the Time-Life magazines and I can assure you that everything printed in the pages of Time, Life, and People (especially People) is read by someone with a law degree prior to publication. I should probably say "was read," they also had proofreaders and copy editors back then. Maybe not so much these days.

At People we had a long list of stories we wanted to publish but could not because the legal team felt we couldn't prove to legal satisfaction/were subject to potential libel. The passage of time has brought most of these stories to light (sometimes not until after the death of the parties involved) but were eventually brought into the public, though mostly not by People.

The Reader was also looked at by attorneys because they had a high amount of investigative content. Not so much today, it was a different time, they used to have a team of reporters that broke big stories. Once upon a time. They ran stories that could have been deemed actionable. Reader stories have sent people to prison.

YMMV

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Old 01-03-2020, 01:02 PM
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Without wanting to tempt fate I do have to ask the question, why then do they bother keeping it open at all? Seems like a prime candidate for closing a stable door after the horse has bolted.
Reader management used to like us, really really liked us, even though they didn't understand what we were doing. I vividly remember attending a meeting where the managing editor said, "We don't know what the F*** you do, really, but that's okay."

It's nice when people have faith in you.

Successive management has had more appreciation. As Dr. Seuss didn't write, "An asset's an asset, no matter how small."

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Old 01-03-2020, 01:18 PM
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I knew Doug Krekorian and, Sir, you were no Doug Krekorian!!
No, he was great. I was a little guy.
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Old 01-03-2020, 01:53 PM
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I never once said that the STM would/could have a lawyer review every message a poster has written.
Please reread the thread.
You said that you thought they would have a lawyer who could advise on how to respond to a poster threatening a lawsuit. Generally in order to provide competent legal advice, they'd need to read everything involving that poster to figure out what might be actionable involving the person and what might be an issue because of things other people have said about the person. Lawyers giving legal advice beyond things like 'ban him and be done with it' without knowing the details of the potential case are not doing themselves or their clients any good - so in this case, the lawyer would either review every message the lawsuit-threatening poster has written, or would be giving bad advice. It's a lot more work than you seem to think it is, and a lot riskier professionally for the lawyer to make statements on off of little knowledge.
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Old 01-03-2020, 04:57 PM
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Apparently none of you who question this policy have ever been to court.
For what it's worth, I don't question the policy. Makes sense to me. Don't feed the mouths that bite your hand.

~Max
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Old 01-03-2020, 09:22 PM
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Without wanting to tempt fate I do have to ask the question, why then do they bother keeping it open at all? Seems like a prime candidate for closing a stable door after the horse has bolted.
Probably because the chances of being sued is quite small.
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Old 01-06-2020, 06:40 PM
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I have never heard of a newspaper having a lawyer on staff who reviews articles daily before publication. They might bring in a lawyer to review a specific article that they are worried might cause a problem, but not a staff lawyer who does that day to day. Do you have any kind of cite for a newspaper following that practice?
Back when I was in college, the university's newspaper's insurance policy ran out while they were trying to renegotiate the coverage details. In order to continue publishing day-to-day, they used the services of a lawyer, who read every word cover-to-cover before allowing them to send the files to the printing company.

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I have literally never heard of a company with under 60 people who keeps a lawyer as a staff member where that lawyer isn't doing a significant amount of legal work. That sounds utterly bizarre, as lawyers are pretty expensive and there are plenty of law firms that will contract with you to provide occasional contract review on an hourly basis.
This, of course, is the big qualifier. It was the University's staff attorney who was pre-reading everything for them. In the newspaper article about the situation it appeared to be a charitable gesture, but I suspect someone high in the University's pyramid had some influence in getting that attorney to do extra work each night to keep the college free of libel-suits. And the university's staff, of course, was a lot more than 60 people.

--G
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