Three appellate-court justices last week ruled that a lawsuit over articles published by The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa did not prove that the coverage defamed the plaintiffs, the newspaper reports.
The series of articles, which described city council campaign spending, dealt with matters of widespread public interest and cannot be construed as dealing with private dealings between donor and politician, the decision said.
“This is an important decision for journalism, free speech, and a newspaper’s fundamental right and obligation to shine a bright light on issues of public interest,” said Steve Falk, chief executive officer of Sonoma Media Investments, which owns The Press Democrat.
“For a newspaper our size, this costly legal fight was a risky undertaking,” Executive Editor Catherine Barnett said. “So it is especially heartening that the court’s decision vindicates both our reporting and our watchdog role.”