Coals of Fire: The Alton Telegraph Libel Case

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9780809314010: Coals of Fire: The Alton Telegraph Libel Case
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In 1980 the Alton Telegraph of Madison County, Illinois, was mortally wounded by a $9.2 million damage award for a story it did not even print.

In the role of investigative reporter, Littlewood gives deep background on all concerned in the libel suit. He looks at the people, the factions of the town, the county. Reputed to be a plaintiff’s paradise, Madison County, he points out, frequently leads the nation in damage awards of $1 million or more.

The case involved an investigation of the rumored Mafia connections of a local savings and loan association and a young builder. At the request of federal investigators, two reporters for the Alton Telegraph wrote a confidential memo to representatives of the U.S. Department of Justice reporting their unverified (and unpublished) information. Thus the damage suit. With the jury verdict, the only alternative for the owners of the newspaper was bankruptcy

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About the Author:

Thomas B. Littlewood is Professor of Journalism at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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