Media Law Handbook



12. What is the statute of limitations?
10. What defenses are available to journalists?

11. Retractions

Under North Carolina law, publishing or broadcasting “a full and fair correction, apology and retraction” in accordance with state law eliminates the possibility of punitive damages in a libel suit.[185]  A plaintiff can still win a libel suit if a retraction has been provided, but he or she will only collect actual or compensatory damages.  The law provides that before instituting a libel action against a newspaper, periodical or broadcast station, a plaintiff shall inform the defendant, in writing, of the article and/or statements he or she contends are false and defamatory.[186]  The N.C. Supreme Court, however, has ruled that failure to provide such notice does not prevent a plaintiff from suing but only eliminates the possibility of punitive damages.[187]

The state statute imposes a number of requirements on the retraction provisions.  First, the defamatory statements must have been published or broadcast “in good faith,” their falsity the result of “an honest mistake,” and the publisher or broadcaster must have had “reasonable grounds for believing the statements . . . were true.”  Second, the retraction must run within 10 days of the receipt of notice from the plaintiff.  A newspaper or periodical must print the retraction “in as conspicuous place and type” as the original article, and a radio or TV station must broadcast the retraction “at approximately the same time of day and by the same sending power so as to be visible and audible as the original acts or words.”[188]  The notice and retraction provisions do not apply to anonymous communications.[189]


[185] N.C. Gen. Stat. §99-2 (a) (2011).

[186] Id. §99-1.

[187] Osborn v. Leach, 135 N.C. 628, 640, 47 S.E. 811 (1904).

[188] N.C. Gen. Stat. §99-2 (b).

[189] Id. at §99-3.


12. What is the statute of limitations?
10. What defenses are available to journalists?

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