Libel Reform: An Appraisal

Today, I am going to talk about the law of libel. A major part of my work at U.S. News is prepublication review of U.S. News and World Report and The Atlantic. I make difficult decisions such as assessing the risk that the Ayatollah Khomeini might sue the magazine for libel. I am not sure if you can libel the Ayatollah, but be careful if you do-he has very potent remedies. I will not focus on the law of libel as it is practiced in Michigan or in other states today. Instead, I want to examine proposals for the total restructuring of defamation law. Perhaps in evaluating such proposed changes, we can better appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of existing libel law.