First a little background – Tom Martino has hosted a radio program in the Denver, Colorado area for 30 years – currently on KHOW. Tom Martino is a consumer advocate (The Trouble Shooter) – along the lines of Clark Howard – but quite a bit more aggressive towards businesses he believes are not treating consumers appropriately. He runs a web site called the Referral List, which lists businesses that agree to his code of conduct and handle consumer complaints appropriately when they arise.
For about 5 years, his program was nationally syndicated by Westwood One and reportedly carried on about 250 stations. In 2006, Westwood One ended the syndication He still continues on the air in Denver as a local show.
Now to the current San Francisco Chronicle Story
Tom Martino was sued for slander by a personal watercraft dealer in Oregon for telling a consumer on the air (in 2004) that the dealer was lying to their customer – who was having repeated problems with a product they had purchased The dealer and the manufacturer were doing the “blame the other guy” routine – according to the research done by Martino’s staff. Martino doesn’t make on-air accusations without first doing fact rigorous documentation and fact-checking. You don’t stay on the air for 30 years being reckless.
The business owner lost their case against Martino based on the facts, but the case was appealed to the 9th District US Circus [sic] Court of Appeals, which is why this is a San Francisco story. The 9th District Court dismissed the case for slander against Martino – but the rationale is not partictularly reassuring for people in the radio business:
Martino’s program “contains many of the elements that would reduce the audience’s expectation of learning an objective fact: drama, hyperbolic language, an opinionated and arrogant host, and heated controversy,” the three-judge panel said, upholding a judge’s dismissal of the suit.