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    Renata Adler, Reckless Disregard (1986)
    Considering the tenor of the current sociopolitical scene, Reckless Disregard revisits the important concept of the freedom of the press during a wartime climate. Renata's book sets up a parallel between two court cases going on two different rooms within the same courthouse. The first, Westmoreland v. CBS, came about years after the Vietnam War officially ended when CBS aired a 90-minute documentary accusing General Westmoreland of treason for withholding intelligence information from the U.S. government. The second case, Sharon v. Time, involves a report filed by one of Time's veteran reporters that accused Prime Minister Sharon of conspiring to exact revenge against the political party of Gemayels. Neither of these cases should have come to court or continued for as long as they did, but each threatened the core of the journalistic privilege by challenging the defenses of libel among public figures.

    The book traces the cases through the details of the courtroom drama, carefully splicing the two along similar or divergent ideas. From the judges' decisions to allow only one jury to take notes to only one case settling out of court, this 243-page novel doesn't miss a minute of testimony or let a detail slip through the cracks. The book has two important functions for a journalist. It first traces the extension of Time v. Sullivan protection through two different war situations. It second provides a model for reporting on courtroom procedures, highlighting testimony v. deposition inconsistencies and struggling hard to introduce color into an abundance of case law.

    Both cases pushed the issue of reckless disregard for the truth in the reporting of these well-respected journalistic institutions. Since both deal with public figures, the rules set by Times v. Sullivan require the petitioner to prove that the offensive material was published in knowing falsity or with reckless disregard for the truth. As for Sharon v. Time, the burden of proof left the petitioners scrambling for access to a single reporter's unnamed sources who in turn had access to hidden official documents. Time used this unique situation to its advantage, simultaneously arguing that protecting the sources in a hot news story fell under its journalistic privilege and that the information had already been published in a smaller newspaper and therefore any damage would already have been done. The case was almost settled out of court twice. However, the case continued with the jury deciding that the Time reporter, David Halevy, had not acted out of actual malice, but had indeed "acted negligently and carelessly in reporting and verifying the information which ultimately found its way into the published paragraph of interest in this case."

    In Westmoreland v. CBS, the General obviously had complete access to the proceedings that supposedly showed his betrayal of the United States. However, the stakes in his case extended beyond just libeling his character. If Westmoreland lost his case it would mean that he had deceived President Johnson, who would in turn be exonerated for losing one of the most devastating and controversial wars of all time. After several mind-befuddling testimonies by top military officials, the case was settled out of court with both parties acknowledging "long and faithful service" of the other to respectively the military and the journalistic tradition. However court lore persists that "two legendary witness brought {Westmoreland} down and ...that CBS resoundingly and literally won."