Opening arguments in Sarah Palin’s libel trial against the NY Times took place yesterday. Palin’s attorney started by saying her case was an “uphill battle,” framing this as a David vs. Goliath story. That’s probably pretty accurate as most observers I’ve seen have suggested it’s a minor miracle this case even made it to trial and that the chance of Palin actually winning was somewhere between a ghost of a chance and no chance at all.

Looking over the media landscape this morning, I detect a slight change. Reporters who were monitoring the trial yesterday seem to have upgraded her chances, if only slightly. Slate‘s Seth Stevenson says Palin appears to have “a puncher’s chance of winning” and advises fight fans to grab their popcorn.

I went to the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan today because I wanted a ringside seat.

Could the Times actually lose a libel case for the first time in more than 50 years? And could the trial have repercussions that reach beyond these particular parties?

Prognostication-wise, I wouldn’t bet on a Palin victory. But there are certainly some bad facts here for the paper of record. And once a jury gets involved, you just neeeeeever know. I’d at least wager there are a few chewed cuticles over at 620 Eighth Avenue.

The Washington Post‘s Erik Wemple is also watching the trial closely. His piece about day one of the trial doesn’t speculate about Palin’s chances but he does say that he found an aspect of the NY Times‘ defense cringeworthy.

…while listening via a live audio link, the Erik Wemple Blog grimaced at the Times’s argument that Palin was a minor element of the editorial. In his presentation, Axelrod noted that the former governor wasn’t even in the headline and that her PAC is mentioned just once, in the fifth paragraph. “A casual reader looking at this editorial probably would have a pretty good chance of just skipping right past her name,” said Axelrod.

There are some problems here: One is that the Times is trying to downplay a gobsmacking, false claim by saying it’s buried in the middle of an editorial. Another is that the editorial is only about 700 words, meaning there’s not much room for allegedly defamatory assertions to hide. Yet another is that at this juncture, the Times’s legal defense conflicts with its journalistic principles, which provide no harbor for errors in the fifth paragraph — or any paragraph.

Perhaps a new slogan is in order: “All the news that’s fit to skim.”

Ouch! The Times arguing that no one reads beyond the headline is a bit of a self-own. The truth is that the lines about Palin were the only interesting thing in the editorial, certainly the only thing anyone remembers about it. The NY Times tried to create a false equivalence to an incitement that never happened. It’s funny that the progressives who love to whine about “both sides” journalism seem awfully quiet about this case.

Wemple is live-tweeting the case today and he’s related another cringey moment as Palin’s attorney questions Elizabeth Williamson, the Times author who wrote the first draft of the editorial:

The Times is basically arguing that this was just a mistake and that no one at the paper was out to get Palin and yet here you have an unnamed colleague praising the junk piece that landed them in court and mocking the people who later objected to it as the “gun rights brigade” having a seizure. Sounds a bit biased to me. I wish Wemple would just name that colleague.

Finally, I hadn’t realized that the Palin libel trial and the Michael Avenatti/Stormy Daniels trial were happening in the same courthouse. Apparently Palin and Avenatti ran into each other yesterday in the cafeteria:

Avenatti was asked about that on his way into court today and said it was a “pleasant exchange.”

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