Sometimes the truth doesn’t set you free

The trial of a Minneapolis blogger, accused of defaming a man and causing him to lose his job at the University of Minnesota, is over.

John Hoff, aka “Johnny Northside” has to pay Jerry Moore $60,000 in the defamation suit against him, the Twin Cities Daily Planet reports.

Hoff had written on his blog that Moore, a former executive director of the Jordan Area Community Council, had been involved in a fraudulent mortgage scheme and questioned why he’d subsequently been hired by the university.

The jury said that while what Hoff had written was true, it caused him to lose his job, and awarded him $35,000 damages and $25,000 for emotional distress.

Is this a message to bloggers everywhere? The TCDP noted the closing statements of Moore’s attorney:

Moore’s attorney Jill Clark said in her closing statement that much of the discussion of the First Amendment and freedom of the press as it relates to blogs “is really not relevant.” She also said, “There need to be some limits on blogs.” Clark pointed to Hoff’s lack of objective reporting. “The reporter loses objectivity when he enters the story,” she said.

Don Allen, named in the original suit, settled with Moore and testified against Hoff. He told the Star Tribune the verdict sends an appropriate message:

“It’s unfortunate for all bloggers, but you have to have some sense of responsibility,” he said. “You have to attack the issues, not the individuals.”

There was a small win for bloggers in the trial. The judge ruled early on that Hoff wasn’t responsible for the comments left on his blog by readers.

I’m interested in hearing from independent bloggers on whether this case changes how you’ll approach what you write,

(h/t: Laura Yuen)