Student Journalist Participates in Mock Deposition for Communication Law Class

Newhouse School of Public Communications student Dominic Chiappone ’24 defended an article he wrote for The Daily Orange in a class exercise designed to simulate a deposition a journalist could face if sued for defamation.

a student participates in a mock trial in a classroom
From left: Elliott Lewis, Dominic Chiappone and Cayley Young take part in the mock deposition.

The mock deposition was part of a communication law class taught by Newhouse Professor Elliott Lewis. The case centered on a story Chiappone had written for The Daily Orange involving campus police.

Lewis, who is a member of the New York State Bar Association’s media law committee, played the role of Chiappone’s attorney.

“Most civil lawsuits are resolved before going to trial, so that makes it rare that a journalist would have to testify in court if sued for libel,” Lewis says. “But a journalist might have to sit for a deposition to answer questions about their reporting before a settlement is reached, or the lawsuit is dropped.”

Local attorney Cayley Young ’17, L’20, an alumna of the Newhouse School and College of Law, played the role of the plaintiff’s lawyer. Young, who works for the law firm of Martin Ganotis Brown Mould and Currie, peppered Chiappone with questions about his sources and fact-checking process.

“It’s good to get our students thinking about the kind of scrutiny they could face if someone sues over a story they’ve written,” Lewis says.

Had the hypothetical lawsuit been real, Lewis and Young agreed Chiappone would win.  According to Lewis, “He got his facts right and did his due diligence.”

This story originally appeared in Syracuse University News.