A judge has thrown out a defamation lawsuit filed by "Brooklyn-born and bred" coffee shop Gorilla Coffee against the New York Times—upholding the paper's right to report on mean things that people say about each other during disputes. Kind of an important part of a newspaper's job, if you think about it.
Last year, Gorilla owner Darleen Scherer and operations director Carol McLaughlin filed suit after the Times published an article about Gorilla employees who had resigned and staged a walk-out that shuttered the Park Slope shop for more than two weeks. In a written statement, the disgruntled workers had complained that McLaughlin "created a perpetually malicious, hostile, and demeaning work environment." By reprinting this portion of the workers' statement, Scherer and McLaughlin's suit asserted, the Times "implied that [it was] based on unspoken, defamatory facts, and could thus be construed as fact by the reader."
Are Times readers too dumb nowadays to tell the difference between quotes and reporting, because of Twitter? Maybe not: In tossing the lawsuit, State Supreme Court Justice Wayne Saitta wrote that a "reasonable reader" would be able to figure out that "the statement made by the workers is based on their perception of their work conditions, not based on an objective source of information." Also, the workers' words were "too subjective and vague to be considered anything more than an opinion."
So! Reporting opinions is still legal, even in America, at least for now. Nevertheless, the lawyer for Gorilla, Edward Finklestein, says his client hasn't decided if it will appeal.
Here's an idea for Gorilla: Don't appeal. Take the money you'd spend on lawyers and give raises to your employees instead. Then maybe they won't write mean statements anymore. (Legal disclaimer: This paragraph is not fact, just opinion.)