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Jane Pauley Sues NY Times

NY- Broadcaster Jane Pauley is suing the New York Times for fraud and fraudulent inducement, claiming they ran an interview with her in an advertising supplement funded by Eli Lilley and other drug companies without her consent or knowledge after she gave what she thought was an interview for a news article on mental health. Pauley, who has been open and vocal about her struggle with bipolar disorder, says the Times “duped” her into unwitting endorsement. Co-defendants are DeWitt Publishing, which helped arrange the supplement. Here’s the laundry list:

“Pauley seeks injunctive relief, damages, lost profits, costs and attorney’s fees for Defendants’ acts of wilful false designation of origin, false description and misrepresentation of fact, false advertising and endorsement, unfair competition, deceptive trade practices, intent to deceive, fraud, and for knowingly violating her right of publicity, all in violation of the Lanham Act, and the common law and statutes of the State of New York.

According to Pauley’s statement, after giving a speech at the National Mental Health Association, an employee of DeWitt Publishing contacted the NMHA and represented herself as a reporter for the New York Times. The NMHA put her in touch with Pauley, who consented to the interview believing she was being profiled for the cover of a news supplement to the New York Times Magazine. She was not happy when the supplement came out with the word “ADVERTISEMENT” stamped across each page with a disclaimer reading that it “did not involve the reporting or editing staff of the New York Times.” Funnily enough, the DeWitt “reporter” never mentioned that, or, for that matter, “DeWitt Publishing.”

Pauley’s allegations of wrongdoing on the part of the NYT are a little more tenuous – it appears to rest exclusively on the contention that the line between news and advertorials were too blurry, citing Public Editor Barney Calame worrying about same in a November, 2005, column. But fraud requires intent, and there seems to be none here on the part of the Times, and the recitation of fact in paragraphs 78 – 103 (though there the SG’s partial complaint ends). So it is unclear if Pauley’s lawyers advance any arguments alleging a duty on the part of the New York Times to ensure that participants in such advertorials are aware that they are not associated with the New York Times. It sorta seems like a pretty strict burden, but then again, if the NYT is earning revenue from these supplements that are clearly meant to present as news-esque content, then perhaps they do have a duty to ensure that the content meets a minimum standard of lawfulness. This is all conjecture, though, because the complaint ends at page 13 and Jane Pauley has not yet contacted us to discuss her legal strategy. Probably a smart move on her part.

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