Brief Fact Summary. The Defendant, Cowles Media Company (Defendant), promised the Plaintiff, Cohen (Plaintiff), confidentiality in order to receive certain information to be published. Defendant failed to adhere to the agreement and as a result the Plaintiff lost his employment and received a damage award by the trial court.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Contract law should not impose a legal obligation on a moral and ethical obligation.
Issue. Whether the law should impose a legal obligation on a moral and ethical obligation?
Held. No. Contract law is not a proper fit for a promise regarding news source confidentiality. Courts should not put legal rigidity on a special ethical relationship.
In media news gathering, a source and a reporter do not believe they are entering into a legally binding contract
Discussion. The Court addresses both the subjective and objective standards to decide this case. Subjectively, the court looks at the actual intent of the parties. However, the court moves to a more objective view of the case and states that reporters and their sources don’t usually think they are entering into a binding contract. The court also uses the non-commercial nature of the arrangement to find against the enforceability of the promise.