Last week at the Buzz Cuts reviewing workshop, they handed out a defamation guideline written by Mary Kozlovski that discussed defamation law. It's made me feel a little uneasy because it seems like anything you write can be defamation if you aren't careful.
What definitely enters my mind is a little incident on the blogosphere, probably about 6 months ago where a blogger visited The Hardware Societe and implied that the restaurant's terrine wasn't very good and made a comment that it might not have been well refrigerated. Someone from the actual restaurant wrote a comment on the blog, very upset because she believed that the blog defamed the integrity of the restaurant and the hard work of the chefs and wait staff. Anyway, my point is, I suppose something as little as "so and so's chicken soup was a tepid temperature" implies a lot of things, although situations do vary. I read many food blogs that honestly say certain dishes at a restaurant lack crunch or say the meat was too sinewy etc, and I don't think that it would be considered to be defamation. I guess when they actively say "don't come here again" or imply food poisoning, that's probably where they cross the line.
At the workshop, the professional reviews said that if a show was morally challenging and perhaps racist/homophobic/sexist, then we should make a point of it in our reviews. But what if you're not too sure if they were being racist/homophobic/sexist? I suppose the reason why defamation happens is when one party accuses another of something, and that something is not entirely backed up with evidence. For example, if you imply someone's work is plagiarised and you don't back it up, you'd get into a lot of legal crap.
Then there's also the issue of a show that's just awful. What do you do? I think a lot of reviewers probably grapple what that ethical pickle, especially when you review a show where you know that the makers have put a lot of effort and heart into it. Do you be that scathing reviewer, or do you try to find a positive? It's pretty hard, I would assume. I remember writing a review on Katy Perry's first mainstream album and I basically hated it a lot, and when I think about it now, it wasn't a very good review.
I suppose this is just something I should eventually work out on my own, and I'm glad there's a defamation seminar on Monday. Hopefully all my concerns will be eased and if not, at least I get the chance to speak to someone about it.