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Alan Williams is head of the media and technology group at Denton Hall.
In his foreword, Ian Hargreaves talks about "fair business risk" and here we are looking at a newspaper's approach to libel rather than a book or magazine publisher's. But all publishers have to insure themselves. And a libel underwriter is not interested in "fair business risk", but whether publication would be a fair insurance risk.
Editor Nick Braithwaite claims this is a practical handbook which will guide readers through the risks, so it is entitled to be judged on that basis. How does it measure up?
The first thing I do when judging a book is turn to the index; it is the key to open up the treasures within. My feeling is that this one ought to be bigger.
The handbook contains, effectively, three sections.
The first is a review of the libel laws in other countries which is written by lawyers qualified in those jurisdictions. This is useful provided it is not treated as a substitute for the real thing - advice from a local lawyer on the problem itself. It is not new to review the law of other jurisdictions. Peter Carter-Ruck did it in Libel and Slander, published by Butterworths, somewhat more extensively though not obviously written by local lawyers.
The second section, and this is useful, is the section on comparison of libel laws and it proves very interesting.
However, if this book is worth buying, it is for the third section on risk management, which is excellent. In fact, it is so good I cannot imagine why it has not been done before. For the working journalist the book will probably prove worth buying for this chapter alone.