At a recent gathering of Massachusetts media lawyers, the question came up whether there is a plaintiffs' libel bar among lawyers in this state. "Yes," someone remarked, "and its name is Howard Cooper."
Boston Phoenix media writer Mark Jurkowitz profiles Cooper this week as Boston's go-to guy for libel: The media's worst nightmare? While calling Cooper "an unpopular figure in some local newsrooms," Jurkowitz paints a picture of a lawyer who is idealistic, passionate and tenacious.
Cooper spoke on a libel panel in December for the Mass. Newspaper Publishers Association (of which I am executive director). When I invited him, I joked that for him to come to a meeting of publishers and editors would be like entering the lions' den. By the end of the panel, he may not have tamed the lions in the room, but he certainly earned their respect. He honed in eloquently on a point that should be obvious: By adhering to generally accepted standards of professionalism in reporting, journalists can keep Cooper and his clients from knocking on the newsroom door.