Suppose the New York Times writes "Sources say the celebrity John Doe raped his daughter" and they truly found two anonymous people (i.e., two sources) beforehand with that claim.
How responsible is the company in civil court if the claim is false?
Of course, the company will lose readers as its reputation for finding good sources falls, but I'm wondering how egregious of a statement would be permitted before New York civil law would punish it further.
I assume the company would have civil liability if they knew the claim was false and simply had knowingly found two liars, right?
But, if the company had the tiniest suspicion of truth, are they instead protected from libel? It seems the news is quite free to propagate rumors, so I'd like to know the limit. Are there precedents of libel like this where the publisher never actually lied?