Can You Sue for Libel by a University Newspaper?


One of the greatest freedoms we have as Americans is our First Amendment. This guarantees freedom of speech, including freedom of the press.

But one worry that you may have is if someone says or writes something that can harm your reputation. As a private individual, such libelous statements can have serious consequences on your life.

So what happens if you open up a university newspaper and find libelous statements against you?

You might wonder if you can sue for libel. The answer is yes, but you’ve got to know how the process works.

Here’s what you should know:

What Is Libel?

Let’s first understand what libel means. Libel is a form of defamation. This is the intent to cause disrepute of an individual or group.

Libel refers to a person’s defamation, group, company, organization, product, service, government, or country through writing or images.

Libel is different from slander as the latter revolves around speech to defame an entity.

Libel has to be proved, and the burden of proof is on the entity claiming they have been libeled.

If you see a libelous statement made against you in a university newspaper, you must prove that the statement is false. You also have to prove that it may or has harmed you.

What Isn’t Libel?

So, does this mean that any false statement can be considered libel? As with every aspect of the law, it depends on a case-by-case basis.

However, here are examples of when defamatory statements might not get considered libel:

  • A parody of a public figure
  • A general accusation toward a government without naming specific individuals
  • A report of widespread police corruption within a region
  • A general accusation made toward a particular demographic

Again, it’s always possible to fight and win a case that might not generally get considered to be libelous. But as a general rule, standards for a free press are high in the United States.

One must have to prove that the statement is false and has harsh consequences on the entities that get libeled.

Examples of Libel

A false accusation of a crime can be an example of libel. Let’s look at libel within the context of what a university newspaper might publish:

  • A fraternity house allowed hazing of its members and outsiders
  • Certain university members have sexually harassed other university members
  • A student stole goods from the university’s convenience store

These are just a few examples of what might constitute libel. As you can see, they are all accusations of serious injustices.

If the entities are mentioned by name, this can cause damage to their reputation. As such, one could sue for libel if such statements are published.

When You Want to Sue for Libel

Now let’s look at how to sue for libel. First, you want to make sure you find a great law firm focused on personal injury law — such as Kemp, Ruge & Green Law Group.

You’ll have to present your libel attorney with copies of the university newspaper where the libelous statements got published.

They’ll be able to tell you if you have a case and how they’ll fight the case. You can also use this opportunity to discuss the desired outcome of your libel case.

At the bare minimum, you’ll want the university newspaper to discontinue publishing of the libelous statements. They should also issue a formal apology for the statements.

You might even be able to receive financial compensation from a libel case. While damage to your reputation isn’t always necessary to prove, you want to provide this information to your libel attorney.

For example, did the libelous statements cause you to lose your job? Has it caused social stigma in your community?

By proving the consequences of the libel, this might work in your favor. Always provide your attorney with as much information as you can.

If you are a public figure, it might be harder to win a libel case. You have to show that the statements were written to cause harm to you.

Libel and a Free Press

One concern about libel laws is that they might undermine freedom of the press. Let’s have a deeper look at how libel laws have been perceived throughout our nation’s history.

One of the recent major libel cases was The Gawker Case. Gawker had published snippets of a sex tape involving wrestler Hulk Hogan. The publication got taken down thanks to Charles Harder, Mr. Hogan’s lawyer. Entrepreneur Peter Thiel also financed the case.

For some, the takedown of Gawker was a victory. Others felt it was an attack on the freedom of the press. Many people felt that Charles Harder wanted to intimidate journalists and publications.

He’s served as a libel attorney for many high-profile figures. It’s reported that he’s helped defend Roger Ailes, Melania Trump, and Donald Trump.

We’ve seen more examples of individuals fighting against the press in libel cases. There was Nick Sandmann, who hired libel attorney Richard Jewell.

Nick Sandmann decided to sue for libel when many publications tried to tarnish his image after his public encounter with a Native American activist.

Once again, views are divided on Nick Sandmann’s case. As a private individual, none of us knew about him until the encounter. No doubt, many media outlets depicted him in an unflattering manner.

He felt this could have serious consequences on his life. Those that agree with him will see the libel case as just. Others feel it was a blow to freedom of the press.

Prepare to Sue for Libel

Now that you know that you can sue for libel if a university newspaper publishes false information, you can prepare your case.

Make sure you keep as many hard copies of the libelous statements. If the libelous statements get published online, save PDFs of the page. Make sure to include the timestamps.

Next, you want to write down reasons why you believe the text is libelous. You also need to write statements confirming that the libelous statements have had harsh consequences on your life.

After that, you can consult your libel attorney. You can also find more great content on the law in our online publication.