Cohen v. Cowles Media Co. (1992)


– Cohen gave away information to Cowles, about an opposing person running for lt. governor against him.
– Reporter promised to keep his identity anonymous, the editor overruled this request.
– Case, in trial court favored Cohen…it was remanded to Supreme Court of Minnesota
– It was stated that it violated the 1st amendment of the U.S. for newspapers.
o Granted certiorari and held the 1st amendment was not offended to enforce confidentiality because it only had incidental effects on news and gathering.
o Jury granted him $200,000 and it was upheld in the Supreme Court.

Procedural History

– Supreme Court of Minnesota


– Was this promise a necessary estoppel to prevent injustices upon someone else, and is it a binding contract for estoppels.


– Yes.


– Enforcement is not about creating justice, but it is about PREVENTING injustices from happening in the market place. Allows things to move freely and swiftly.


– There was no compelling need to break the promise of anonymity, he could have said a “source close.”
– Reporters agreed with Cohen…it would hurt their business if people couldn’t tell them dirt…the fully agreed with the importance of respecting anonymity…this was key in this case.


– Affirmed in the supreme court in favor of $200,000.


– Dissenting opinion, the news media in Cohen should be responsible for keeping there promises like everyone else and therefore should be liable on either a contract or promissory note.

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