Cohen V. Cowles Media Co

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Katie Sterritt COMM 441 March 3, 2017 Case Study - Cohen v. Cowles Media Co. Cohen v. Cowles Media Co was a United States Supreme Court case holding that the First Amendment freedom of the press does not exempt journalists from generally applicable laws. Cohen, the Plaintiff, was a campaign associate in the 1982 Minnesota gubernatorial race. He gave court records concerning another party’s candidate for lieutenant governor to the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Minneapolis Star and Tribune (both owned by Cowles Media Co, which was the Defendant). Though he had received a promise of confidentiality from the reporters, the papers identified Cohen in their stories. He was fired as a result. Cohen sued the papers in state court, alleging a …show more content…

What happened in this specific case is that the newspapers published the name of their source without permission. In this case, the press was not even immune from its sources because the source wished to remain anonymous and the journalist wishes to disclose it. The current laws of the land, and the gray areas of forecasting potential consequences of publishing a story with confidential sources places the press in a very precarious situation (“Shield Laws in the Unites States”). Which brings up the question of shield laws protecting those who ask the reporters for their names to be kept anonymous in the story. The outcome of the case was that it was submitted to the jury on the theory of breach of contract and misrepresentation (“Case Briefs”). The jury that was on this case found liability on both counts and awarded $200,000 in compensatory damages and $250,000 in punitive damages against each newspaper for misrepresentation. The Court of Appeals set aside the misrepresentation damages, but affirmed the compensatory damages. The State Supreme Court affirmed the setting aside of punitive damages. Also, decided that the compensatory damages were not enforceable under standard breach of contracts theory. In regards to the Supreme Court, it found that, in a majority decision, that against respondent’s claims that it had no jurisdiction. They cited the Orr v Orr case of 1979 of whether the arguments in

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