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Ashe v. Hatfield

JULY 2, 1973.

GERALD ASHE, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

JAMES HATFIELD ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ALBERT E. HALLETT, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE GOLDBERG DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Gerald Ashe (plaintiff) brought action for libel against Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. and its Assistant News Director James Hatfield (defendants.) The trial court sustained the motion of defendants and dismissed the suit with prejudice. Plaintiff appeals.

The pertinent facts appear from the properly pleaded allegations of plaintiff's complaint, admitted by the motion to dismiss. (Holiday Magic, Inc. v. Scott, 4 Ill. App.3d 962, 963, 282 N.E.2d 452 and cases therein cited.) It appears from the complaint that plaintiff was, and still is, employed as a news writer by defendant Columbia Broadcasting, where defendant James Hatfield worked as assistant news director. On or about May 25, 1972, Hatfield, individually, and as agent for Columbia Broadcasting, "maliciously and wrongfully" published a certain "false, defamatory, malicious and scandalous libel of and concerning Plaintiff and of his said employment." This was written with the intention of injuring and destroying plaintiff's good name and reputation in his employment and to cause him to be regarded as unfit and unworthy to perform his duties as a journalism writer.

A copy of the allegedly libelous communication was appended to the complaint. It is here reproduced in full::

"CBS MEMORANDUM

From: Jim Hatfield To: JERRY ASHE Date: 5/25/72

cc: MANN, D. SMITH, J.J. RODGER, FILE

For the second time in two days, I find it necessary to take this formal way of advising you your writing is not up to the minimum standard we need to assure quality news broadcasts at WBBMTV.

As I have told you repeatedly in person and yesterday in writing, we are looking for writing that is simple, direct, accurate and conversational.

Your script slugged `Democratic Dinner' read as follows:

`It was quite a gathering of the clan last night in Chicago. The Democratic clan * * * of Cook County. It was the annual dinner of the Cook County Democratic leaders * * * at 100 dollars a plate. Five thousand people turned out * * * at the Conrad Hilton hotel. Bob Faw reports.'

In a relatively brief space, this script is needlessly repititious [sic]. In 47 words, you used the terms `clan' and `Democratic' twice. There are two unclear pronoun references: the `it' in the first sentence and the `it' in the third sentence.

But what bothers me even more than the poor writing is the lack of accuracy. A total of 6500 epople [sic] attended the dinner, not `five thousand' as your script leads one to believe. My source is the banquet services manager of the Conrad Hilton Hotel.

One more thing. I have asked you to date your scripts. This is important for record keeping. Your script `Democratic Dinner' was not dated. Please see that every script you write contains the day's date, your initials and the ...


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