Lance Dutson, who blogs at Maine Web Report was sued this week by Warren Kremer Paino Advertising for reporting that Dutston had posted to his blog about the Maine Office of Tourism.
Lance writes about the core of the story:
Here’€™s the ad they’€™re suing me for showing, an ad I pulled from the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development website, that features a phone sex number instead of the real number to call for Maine tourism information:
So instead of owning up to the mistake, they’€™re suing me. This isn’€™t going to work.
Dutson is a member of the Media Bloggers Association, a group formed to support the development of blogging as a distinct form of journalism. Their President, Robert Cox, had this to say about the case:
This case is nothing more than an attempt by a deep-pocketed litigant to bully a blogger for criticizing state officials and state contractors. We have successfully defended MBA members in nine previous cases and I don’t expect the outcome here to be be any different.
On the surface, and without reading the details of the case this morning, this seems like an absurd lawsuit primarily due to the inability of some to own up to a mistake. Publishing a phone sex line in a tourism ad is a pretty major mistake, especially for a state tourism agency.
This story is being discussed widely discussed widely throughout the blogosphere currently. Most bloggers have instantly jumped in to support Dutson.
Blogger Scott Johnson, formerly of Feedster, took a different approach and called Tom McCartin of Warren Kremer Paino in order to get the other side of the story:
The issue isn’€™t free speech; its manipulation of Google and how the search engine results are presenting his business to the world. Now that’€™s something I can understand. I’€™m a business owner too. I’€™d never go to the level of a lawsuit personally but that’€™s due to how I feel about the U.S. legal system
Even after his conversation with Mr. McCartin, Johnson still feels that the lawsuit is a mistake and offers to donate to Dutson’s legal defense fund, if one is setup.
The real lesson here though for bloggers is that to be taken seriously as media, bloggers need to be willing to attempt to get both sides of the story. Johnson is the only blogger that I’m aware of that took the time to pick up the phone and listen to the other side of the story in order to truly understand – and then to write a post explaining why he chose to support Dutson.