We conclude that a deliberate alteration of the words uttered by a plaintiff does not equate with knowledge of falsity for purposes of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan and Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., unless the alteration results in a material change in the meaning conveyed by the statement. (citations omitted)
The Court went on to note the use of quotation marks to directly attribute inaccurate statements to the speaker "bears in a most important way on [this] inquiry, but it is not dispositive in every case." Generally speaking, a publisher is given more leeway for inaccuracies when he is interpreting his sources than when he is purporting to be providing a "direct account of events that speak for themselves." Time, Inc. v. Pape, 401 U.S. 279 (1971).
Some examples of statements that courts have found to be "substantially true":
A statement that a boxer tested positive for cocaine, when actually he had tested positive for marijuana. See Cobb v. Time Inc. 24 Media L. Rep. 585 (M.D. Tenn 1995).
A statement that an animal trainer beat his animals with steel rods, when actually he had beaten them with wooden rods. See People for Ethical Treatment of Animals v. Berosini, 895 P.2d 1269 (Nev. 1995).
A statement that a father sexually assaulted his stepdaughter 30-50 times, when the stepdaughter testified he had done so only 8 times. See Koniak v. Heritage Newspapers, Inc., 198 Mich. App. 577 (1993).
A statement that a man was sentenced to death for six murders, when in fact he was only sentenced to death for one. See Stevens v. Independent Newspapers, Inc., 15 Media L. Rep. 1097 (Del. Super. Ct. 1998).
A statement that Terry Nichols was arrested after the Oklahoma City Bombing, when actually he had only been held as a material witness. See Nichols v. Moore, 396 F. Supp. 2d 783 (E.D. Mich. 2005).