UPDATE: Jeff Balkin, an attorney who blogs clarifies the court’s decision mentioned here the other day. Bloggers aren’t protected from libel laws for things they write themselves, only for linking to libelous stories or — and this may be most important — libelous statements written by others but published in the blogger’s comments section.
Newspapers ARE liable for libelous statements in letters to the editor, presumably because they are checked thoroughly before publication. Would a newspaper that allows comments on its stories on its website which are NOT edited (just like most bloggers’ comments) be protected under this ruling if someone were to post a libelous comment to the newspaper’s website? I would think so (based upon my reading of the decision and my legal education), but it might have to get tested in court first, an expensive and embarrassing (just being accused) prospect for any newspaper.
That being said, I would like to see more newspapers experimenting with real comments sections targeted at individual stories, just as many bloggers (myself included) offer comment sections for each post, especially if reporters and editors get involved in the comments, creating a two-way conversation about the news.