Newspaper Chasers

Opinion Research Corporation has just announced a poll which tells us that 77% of Americans blame the media for making the economic crisis worse.

No surprise there. It’s been nothing but "We’re All Gonna Die!" for virtually the entire eight years of the Bush presidency. What’s new is the idea that media organizations could potentially be held liable for some of the damage they’ve caused:

Richard L. Scheff, a national expert on corporate liability and white collar crime issues, warns media that they could potentially be exposed to liability despite apparent constitutional protections:

"Although statements by the media are protected by the First Amendment, the survey results demonstrate that the public believes that the press bears some responsibility for the lack of confidence in the economy. One would hope that the media would act less out of self-interest in these times of national crisis," said Mr. Scheff, vice chairman and partner with Philadelphia-based law firm Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads.

In a country where a judge took seriously a claim that the loss of a pair of pants was worth $54 million, surely someone could claim that the loss of half the value of their 401(k) was worth $100 million, and that The New York Times was the culprit who caused it. The Times might win the suit, but so did the couple who ran the dry cleaning store in the Great Pants Suit. The “win” cost them $64,000 in attorney’s fees. (Generous donors held a fund-raiser and covered this cost, but would anyone do that for The New York Times?)

Where’s John Edwards when you need him?