This will be short-but-sweet, borrowed from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. (This article should explain why I’m covering this.)
Generally, defamation is a false and unprivileged statement of fact that is harmful to someone’s reputation, and published “with fault,” meaning as a result of negligence or malice. State laws often define defamation in specific ways. Libel is a written defamation; slander is a spoken defamation.
Is truth a defense to defamation claims?
Yes. Truth is an absolute defense to a defamation claim. But keep in mind that the truth may be difficult and expensive to prove.
Therefore, if The Tartan says “at least 15 Asian massage parlor establishments (AMPs) in Allegheny County that appear to sell sex,” and they do appear to sell sex, that statement is true.
There is also the issue of public vs private figures. A limited-purpose public figure “is one who (a) voluntarily participates in a discussion about a public controversy, and (b) has access to the media to get his or her own view across.” Libel and slander claims from those who are public figures have the additional burden of showing “actual malice.”
“It took me years and years of trial efforts to work out that there is absolutely no knitting triumph I can achieve that my husband will think is worth being woken up for.”–Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, At Knit’s End: Meditations for Women Who Knit Too Much