Via Mr. Media Training, this bizarre story of a Republican councilman without a clue:
If you’re a reporter and want to write about an elected official, do you need to obtain permission from the politician in advance to include their name in your news story?
Of course not. You could imagine the chilling effect on journalism if people elected to positions of power could shut down media inquiries they didn’t like by denying the reporter permission to write about them.
Kirby Delauter, a county council member in Frederick County, Maryland, doesn’t appear to agree. He took to his Facebook page yesterday to denounce a local reporter, Bethany Rogers of The Frederick News-Post, because he “did not authorize any use of my name.” He also included this rather menacing line: “You need to know who you’re dealing with.”
To cap off his post, Mr. Delauter threatened to sue her: “Use my name again unauthorized and you’ll be paying for an attorney.”
I’d like to give Mr. Delauter the benefit of the doubt. It’s possible that he doesn’t have a lot of media experience and truly believes that he has the right to prevent a journalist from using his name without his authorization. Therefore, I want to use this post to write something productive.
Sir, you have no legal standing on which to sue a journalist for using your name without authorization. In order for a public figure to prove libel, you would need to show that Ms. Rogers knew her statements to be false or had a reckless disregard for the truth. That’s a legal standard that’s extremely difficult to meet.
As you’ve seen from the reaction to your Facebook post (which appears to have been deleted), you only helped to attract more attention to Ms. Rogers’ original article; among others, The Washington Post has now helped to make this a national story.
This is a rural part of Maryland, where there are some government-hating people who make the Tea Party look liberal. Mr. Delauter is apparently known for flying off the handle, most famously attacking a local teacher and the teachers union. (Big surprise.)
Anyway, I think he may have learned a lesson this week about how not to handle your disputes with reporters.