Can what a newspaper writes in their opinion column about a business be considered defamatory?

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Can what a newspaper writes in their opinion column about a business be considered defamatory?

My local newspaper recently wrote an opinion column that called my hotel unattractive and dangerous. We are a top rated hotel in the town but recently a man was gunned down near the hotel. This was beyond our control and we are getting a bad reputation because of this. I have heard multiple stories of gang violence in Hiltons and Marriotts, but this was not even gang related. Is there anything I can do about this to protect my reputation?

Asked on July 16, 2011 under Personal Injury, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Defamation is the public makin (including by publication in a newspaper) of a false statement of fact which damages a person's or business's reputation. The key points are: 1) an opinion is not defamation; and 2) true statements are not.

So, to say your hotel is unattractive and dangerous is not defamation--those are opinions, and people may speak or print opinions. To write that a man was gunned down near your hotel is not defamation, because it is, from what you write, true. If on the other hand, they said that the reason your hotel is danagerous is that the locks on your room doors do not work, or you gang members working as bell staff, and if those facts are not true, then that would be a false statement of fact and could lead to a claim for defamation.


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