acting with reckless disregard for the statement's truth or falsity.
It should be noted that the actual malice standard focuses on the defendant's actual state of mind at the time of publication. Unlike the negligence standard discussed later in this section, the actual malice standard is not measured by what a reasonable person would have published or investigated prior to publication. Instead, the plaintiff must produce clear and convincing evidence that the defendant actually knew the information was false or entertained serious doubts as to the truth of his publication. In making this determination, a court will look for evidence of the defendant's state of mind at the time of publication and will likely examine the steps he took in researching, editing, and fact checking his work. It is generally not sufficient, however, for a plaintiff to merely show that the defendant didn't like her, failed to contact her for comment, knew she had denied the information, relied on a single biased source, or failed to correct the statement after publication.
Not surprisingly, this is a very difficult standard for a plaintiff to establish. Indeed, in only a handful of cases over the last decades have plaintiffs been successful in establishing the requisite actual malice to prove defamation.
The actual malice standard applies when a defamatory statement concerns three general categories of individuals: public officials, all-purpose public figures, and limited-purpose public figures. Private figures, which are discussed later in this section, do not need to prove actual malice.