Chiquita Case Fallout Continues

Article excerpt

Lawrence K. Beaupre, former Gannett news executive, looks for work

Fired by his employer of 32 years, former Cincinnati Enquirer Editor Lawrence K. Beaupre is looking for work while trying to ease the memory of one of American journalism's darkest chapters behind him.

Beaupre, who was a central figure in the Chiquita Brands International scandal, was let go from from his job as a Gannett Co. Inc. news executive a couple of weeks after filing a lawsuit against the Enquirer parent and its lawyers.

Beaupre's suit, filed in District of Columbia Superior Court on April 13, claims that Gannett made him the scapegoat for the newspaper's May 3, 1998, investigative series on the banana company that turned sour for Gannett.

Today, Beaupre -- who was once one of Gannett's top editors and credited for significantly improving the Enquirer -- is back home in Cincinnati while he looks for a job. In a phone interview last week, he described the toll the ordeal has taken on him.

"It's been hell," he said. "My family has been put through public ridicule. My career has been severely damaged."

Beaupre's lawsuit alleges that while he was blamed for the Chiquita debacle, company news executives and lawyers were involved hands-on in preparing the series for publication.

Gannett declined to comment beyond its April 14 statement refuting all Beaupre's allegations.

Beaupre's version of the events -- contained in a 57-page complaint -- describes intense involvement by those executives.

The suit alleges the lawyers and executives together permitted the series' lead reporter, Mike Gallagher, to obtain internal Chiquita voice-mail messages that would be used to back up the stories. Senior Vice President/News Philip Currie copy-edited every article himself at the request of his boss, Newspaper Division President Gary Watson, and completely rewrote the story that led the series, the suit claims.

After it was discovered that Gallagher stole the voice-mail messages and lied to his editors about it, Gannett quickly settled with Chiquita for more than $10 million, published a front-page apology renouncing the series, and fired Gallagher to avoid -- Beaupre's suit alleges -- a libel suit by Chiquita. …