Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Shredding Credibility

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Shredding Credibility

Article excerpt

A deal struck by 'The Cincinnati Enquirer' and Chiquita culminates in the destruction of two reporters' notes

For newspapers, a journal- ist's notes have always been something more than just the raw material of news. When those notes are demanded by law enforcement or angry story subjects, newspapers go to great lengths to protect them. A few reporters, with their papers' support, have even gone to jail rather than obey court orders to surrender notes.

Yet, on or around Sunday, June 29, The Cincinnati Enquirer will destroy all the notes two of its reporters compiled during a year-long investigation that became the infamous 18-page report published May 13, 1998 about the business practices of Chiquita Brand International Inc., the local banana company then owned by Cincinnati tycoon Carl Lindner.

The destruction of journalists' notes after five years is the final obligation the Enquirer undertook in its craven 1998 settlement to avoid further legal problems from Chiquita. The Enquirer and its parent Gannett Co. were running from a big problem: Some of the many serious allegations made against Chiquita in the stories were supported by voice mail messages illegally obtained by the newspaper's star (and since fired) investigative reporter, Michael Gallagher.

This was supposed to be a secret agreement, and the Enquirer's brand-new publisher, Margaret E. Buchanan, apparently doesn't want to talk about it. She ignored our messages asking for comment. …

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