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The Language of Defamation Cases$
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Roger W. Shuy

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195391329

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195391329.001.0001

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A Sixth-Grade Teacher Goes after the Local Press

A Sixth-Grade Teacher Goes after the Local Press

(p.45) 3 A Sixth-Grade Teacher Goes after the Local Press
The Language of Defamation Cases

Roger W. Shuy (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

A controversy emerged from allegedly defamatory articles in the local newspaper about a teacher whose students were said to “have learned nothing” during the school year, requiring them to take summer classes to make up for their deficiencies. Linguistic analysis of these articles demonstrated that the writers were not giving their opinions, as the newspaper claimed, but instead were offering their articles as factual. The teacher was declared a pubic person by the Court, meaning that she had to prove actual malice in the articles. Negative prominence of the repeated use of “learned nothing” provided such evidence. It was also clear from the articles and press releases that no apology or retraction was given by the defendants.

Keywords:   opinion, public person, negative prominence, apology

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