Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Editorial: Cincy's Ironic Shield

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Editorial: Cincy's Ironic Shield

Article excerpt

It's always good news when a federal court protects the confidentiality of news sources by upholding a state shield law. Still, we wish we could feel happier about a recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit: Ohio's shield law prevents a news source burned by a fired Cincinnati Enquirer reporter from claiming legal damages against the newspaper and its parent, Gannett Co.

If our joy is tempered, it's because this decision gives the Enquirer yet another excuse to stay silent about its botched 1998 investigation into Chiquita Brands International Inc. -- and about the secret settlement after it came out that the source for some of its allegations of corrupt business activities by the big hometown banana company were voice mail messages illegally accessed by one of its reporters.

This likely was the last courtroom act for a reporting project that has been overly full of lawyers, and that's all to the good. But going on seven years later, the Enquirer still has an unpaid debt to its readers, and to Chiquita, to say what it believes is true or false in its reporting. That 18-page special report lodged sensational and serious allegations against Chiquita, including knowingly spraying banana workers with dangerous pesticides and turning a blind eye to drug smuggling on its ships. But after Chiquita revealed the voice mail tampering, the Enquirer "renounced" the series in an opaque apology that ran on the front page for three consecutive days, and paid Chiquita, then owned by tycoon Carl Lindner, $14 million in a secret settlement disclosed in 2001 by E&P's Washington editor, Todd Shields. …

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