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09/25/89 Jack Haberstroh, v. Crain Publications

September 25, 1989

JACK HABERSTROH, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT

v.

CRAIN PUBLICATIONS, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, FIRST DIVISION

545 N.E.2d 295, 189 Ill. App. 3d 267, 136 Ill. Dec. 771 1989.IL.1483

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Myron T. Gomberg, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE BUCKLEY delivered the opinion of the court. MANNING, P.J., and CAMPBELL, J., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE BUCKLEY

This appeal arises from the circuit court's dismissal with prejudice of a libel action brought by Dr. Jack Haberstroh (plaintiff), an associate professor in the Department of Mass Communications at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, against Crain Communications, Inc., publisher of Advertising Age, Alan Pake, and Thomas J. Ryan (defendants). Plaintiff's three-count complaint alleged that portions of three letters published in Advertising Age were libelous. In dismissing plaintiff's complaint, the circuit court held that plaintiff's complaint did not adequately plead libel per se, as required where no special damages are alleged. We affirm.

The three letters, the subject of this appeal, were separately authored by Pake, Ryan and Anita Ludwig (not named as a defendant) and published by Crain in the November 11, 1985, and February 10, 1986, issues of Advertising Age in the section titled "Viewpoint: Letters." Each letter was written to the editor of Advertising Age in response to an article written by plaintiff and published in the "Personal Privilege" section of the October 7, 1985, issue of Advertising Age. The article, entitled "Tone it down a bit, Lou," is described in plaintiff's complaint as questioning "some of the methods used by advertising agencies in promoting products and express[ing] reasons why individuals involved in advertising are not held in high esteem by the general public." The article strongly criticizes persons in the advertising industry. Among the statements made by plaintiff in the article are "you advertising cats are deliberately embedding vaginas, penises and orgies of every description in advertising art in order to sell products" and that "your code of ethics is a laugh, followed by no one."

In count I of his complaint, plaintiff alleges that Crain and Pake defamed him by accusing him "of being a communist and being incompetent in the performance of his duties as a professor." The complaint refers to Pake's letter:

"No question -- Haberstroh is a commie implant at old VCU. His mission is to overthrow the free enterprise system by poisoning its roots.

Why would anyone study a subject from a guy who obviously doesn't understand it?"

In count II of his complaint, plaintiff alleges that Crain and Ryan defamed him by accusing him "of committing a crime in that he uses illicit drugs." The complaint refers to a headline, which states "AN ACID TRIP," and the accompanying letter written by Ryan:

"'Tone it down a bit, Lou' written by Jack Haberstroh (Personal Privilege, AA Oct. 7) is certainly an indictment of all people working in the advertising profession. I am sure that many individuals reading this column had an ill feeling knowing that Mr. Haberstroh is an associate professor of advertising at Virginia Commonwealth University and his view of our profession is all that his young students will take away.

Maybe Mr. Haberstroh should teach chemistry. I am sure he would recognize ACID when he sees it."

Finally, in count III of his complaint, plaintiff alleges that Crain defamed him by accusing him of being "mentally deranged and incompetent to perform his duties as a professor." The ...


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