The opinion of the court was delivered by: McDADE, District Judge.
Before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment
[Doc. # 7]. Defendant, The Chronicle Publishing Company, owned,
operated, published, and distributed a daily newspaper
circulated generally throughout central Illinois entitled The
Pantagraph. Plaintiff Ronald Pope ("Pope") organized and
incorporated Co-Plaintiff Serendipity: Russian Consulting &
Development, Ltd. ("Serendipity"). The present controversy
surrounds an article and editorial concerning Plaintiffs
published by The Pantagraph in July 1992. Plaintiffs claim that
the article and editorial are defamatory and cast them in a
false light. Defendant moves for summary judgment on all counts
of the Complaint. Plaintiffs respond to Defendant's motion by
arguing that genuine disputes of material fact preclude the
entry of summary judgment in this case. For the reasons which
follow, the motion of Defendant is allowed.
"A motion for summary judgment is not an appropriate occasion
for weighing evidence; rather, the inquiry is limited to
determining if there is a genuine issue for trial." Lohorn v.
Michal, 913 F.2d 327, 331 (7th Cir. 1990). See Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510,
91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). This Court must "view the record and all
inferences drawn from it in the light most favorable to the
party opposing the motion." Holland v. Jefferson National Life
Ins. Co., 883 F.2d 1307, 1312 (7th Cir. 1989). When faced with
a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party may not
rest on its pleadings. Rather, it is necessary for the
non-moving party to demonstrate, through specific evidence,
that there remains a genuine issue of triable fact. See Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553, 91
L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Bank Leumi Le-Israel, B.M. v. Lee,
928 F.2d 232, 236 (7th Cir. 1991). "The mere existence of a scintilla of
evidence in support of the plaintiffs position will be
insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could
reasonably find for the plaintiff." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252,
106 S.Ct. at 2512.
There are no disputes as to the facts material to the
resolution of the present motion. Plaintiff Pope organized and
incorporated Co-Plaintiff Serendipity in October of 1991.
Serendipity was created by Pope as a vehicle through which to
foster economic, investment, trade, tourism, and educational
development in the former Soviet Union. On January 9, 1992,
Pope and Serendipity negotiated an agreement with the City of
Vladimir, Russia ("the City") to build a western style house in
the City. This project, known as the "First American Home in
Russia," was to be a joint venture with the City supplying the
land, cement for the foundation, heavy equipment, room and
board for visiting construction crews, and other services, and
Serendipity supplying certain materials and construction
expertise. Contributing to the project were Bloomington-Normal
homebuilders and corporations who volunteered their labor,
expertise, appliances, and other materials.*fn1 Serendipity
described the American House as a gift to the citizens of
Vladimir, and its purpose, at least in part, was to educate
Russian builders as to American construction techniques,
provide assistance to Bloomington-Normal's sister city, and to
provide a location in the City for sister city activities. The
primary role played by Plaintiffs was that of planner and
In the early months of 1991, problems with the American house
project began to develop. Igor Eremeev,*fn2 a Vladimir city
official, sent a telex message to Pope on February 4, 1992.
This message expressed worries concerning the City's ability to
finance its portion of the American House project and the
absence of information concerning the preparations of the
"American side." In a telex sent February 5, 1992, and again on
February 21, 1992, Pope responded to Eremeev's telex. Pope
stated that it was unfortunate that the City was experiencing
financial problems, that Serendipity would cover the costs
which the City could not cover, that a new agreement would have
to be reached, that Serendipity would supply information in
response to specific requests, and that "failure to build the
home at this late date will send a strong signal to both
foreign businessmen and tourists that Vladimir is not a good
place to work or visit." On February 24, 1992, Eremeev sent
another telex to Pope stating that he had received no reply to
his earlier telex. The badly garbled telex also appeared to
state that Pope's interference with the administration of City
affairs would make mutual collaboration difficult. On February
25, 1992, Pope responded to this telex by stating that no
specific requests for information had been made and that he was
"sorry there have been problems with communication between us."
Following Pope's telex, Eremeev sent another telex which stated
that he had just received Pope's previous telexes and that set
forth a list of specific requests for information. In addition,
the telex, in what comes across as an indignant tone, informs
Pope that Russian interns would not be traveling to
Bloomington-Normal to study American construction techniques.
On March 18, 1992, and April 15, 1992, articles appeared in
the Vladimirskie Vedomosti, a local Vladimir newspaper
published by the District Council of People's Deputies,
discussing the First American Home project. These articles were
written by a reporter named Svetlana Bitkina. Generally, these
articles described the progress of the project, quoted from the
telexes exchanged by Pope and Eremeev, questioned the motives
of Pope and Serendipity, and raised doubts about the usefulness
and benefits of the project to the City. The tenor of the
articles is, generally, negative and suspicious. On April 9 and
10, 1992, an article written by Tatyana Veksler, a Serendipity
representative, appeared in the newspaper Molva. This article
refuted the contentions of the articles written by Ms. Bitkina.
In March of 1992, Serendipity and the City met to discuss the
project and began to negotiate a revision of their agreement.
To reflect the new and worsened financial condition of the
City, Serendipity and the City entered into a new agreement on
May 18, 1992. Pursuant to this agreement, Serendipity would
absorb the majority of the project's cost in exchange for an
extension of the period in which the American House would be
the property of Serendipity. According to the terms of the
contract, the project was to be completed on July 4, 1992, and
immediately "pass into the property of the firm 'Serendipity'
until the year 2003." The American House was dedicated on July
4, 1992, and completed soon thereafter. It then became the
property of Serendipity which had exclusive use and possession
of the house until January 1, 2003.
On July 5, 1992, the Pantagraph published an article
discussing the American House project which was entitled
"Vladimir newspaper questions Pope's project." The article
opened by stating that the project "has been plagued by
cross-cultural misunderstanding and poor communication,
according to articles in a Vladimir newspaper." The articles to
which the Pantagraph article referred were those written by Ms.
Bitkina and published in the Vladimirskie Vedomosti on March 18
and April 15, 1992. The article next stated that at least one
other Vladimir newspaper gave the project positive coverage.
The article then synopsized Ms. Bitkina's articles; quoting
liberally from the articles in so doing. Nowhere in the article
does its author, Elaine Graybill, express an opinion as to the
veracity of the Bitkina articles or offer self generated
commentary on the project, Serendipity, or Pope.
On July 14, 1992, the Pantagraph published an editorial
entitled "Let's avoid looking like 'ugly Americans'." The
editorial concerned the American House project, Pope, and the
questions raised by the articles written by Ms. Bitkina. The
editorial began by posing a hypothetical wherein Russians came
to Bloomington-Normal, offered to build a house on land
supplied by the cities, and
stated that they would keep the title to the house. Such a
proposal, the editorial surmised, would not be warmly received.
The editorial went on to state that the laudable goals of the
American House project were clouded by questions about business
motives behind the project, and Pope's statement warning
Vladimir officials of the consequences of failing to complete
the project risked creating the appearance of "ugly Americans."
The editorial ended by stating that "[w]e should be forging
relationships, not creating suspicions."
Plaintiffs responded to the article and editorial published
by the Pantagraph by filing the present law suit. The Complaint
sets forth four claims. In Counts One and Three, Plaintiffs
claim that the July 5, 1992 article published by the Pantagraph
defamed and cast them in a false light, respectively.
Specifically, Plaintiffs claim that the article defamed and
cast them in a false light in one or more of the following
a. the article, in paragraph 6, falsely stated
that Plaintiffs promoted and characterized the
project as "humanitarian aid" to "struggling
people of Vladimir," when instead, the project was
being carried on to "further the interests of an
b. the article, in paragraphs 16-21, falsely
stated and insinuated that Plaintiffs misled or
withheld information from Vladimir officials
regarding costs, and forced the project upon the
c. the article, in paragraph 28, falsely stated
that Pope "is already representing himself as some
sort of benefactor for all Vladimirites," whose
ideas "are literally pouring down upon Vladimir as
if from a cornucopia;"
d. the article, in paragraph 29, falsely stated
that Plaintiffs' ideas "always seem to cost the
hosting side a pretty penny," and that Plaintiffs'
December 28, 1991, visit to Vladimir was "hosted
by a unit within the city council at a cost of
40,000 rubles" and the "entourage celebrated the
holidays in the Pokrovsky Monastery in Suzdal and