Who can United sue for that erroneous bankruptcy story?

I’m a big fan of Slate‘s Explainer column, which seeks to answer questions that spin off of current headlines. Yesterday the column tackled a subject Grant blogged about recently: the erroneous story reported by several news outlets that United Airlines has gone bankrupt.

United went bankrupt — back in 2002.

Several news services, among them Bloomberg, picked up a 2002 South Florida Sun-Sentinel story and somehow thought it was breaking news. The story spread, and United saw more than a two-third drop in its stock price on Monday.

Slate‘s Explainer asks the obvious question: Who can United sue?

It concludes that there isn’t a clear culprit, though the Tribune Co., who owns the Sun-Sentinel, could be a target, Slate says, as could Bloomberg and Google News, for spreading the bogus report.

United for its part has announced that it is fully looking into the matter.

The article goes on to say that it might be difficult for United to seek damages, since the law does provide some pretty cozy protection for Internet linkers who are not originating a story but simply pointing readers to it — much like I’m doing with this Slate piece.

Go ahead an read it — it’s an interesting take on the legal fallout of this unfortunate media mix up.