Magazine article Editor & Publisher

'Cleveland Scene' Journo Claims He Was Fired over Spiked Story Alleging Pol's Affair

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

'Cleveland Scene' Journo Claims He Was Fired over Spiked Story Alleging Pol's Affair

Article excerpt

A former investigative reporter for the alternative weekly Cleveland Scene is suing parent Times-Shamrock Communications Co., claiming he was fired over a spiked story that alleged a Republican candidate for governor of Ohio had an affair with a former campaign aide.

In a lawsuit filed in Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Court of Common Pleas, James Renner alleges he was wrongfully terminated after complaining in an e-mail to Times-Shamrock CEO Matthew E. Haggerty that the story had been killed only because the politician threatened to file a lawsuit if it was published.

"I was told by both my publisher and my editor that the story was spiked because we couldn't afford another lawsuit, meaning Times-Shamrock couldn't afford another lawsuit," Renner said in a telephone interview Thursday.

Times-Shamrock CEO Haggerty declined to comment in detail in a telephone interview, but said Renner was terminated not because of the story subject but because the story did not meet journalistic standards for the Scene, which the company bought last July.

"Our decisions concerning whether or not to publish any story, including the story referenced in Mr. Renner's lawsuit, is never dictated by the threat of potential litigation, as Mr. Renner alleges," Haggerty said in a statement. "Rather, Mr. Renner's draft story was passed over for publication because it did not meet management's basic standards of journalism as required of all our reporters and editors, and applied universally to any story considered for publication in Times-Shamrock newspapers. Just as we will not shy away from publishing a good newsworthy story, no matter how controversial or even when faced with threatened litigation, nor will we disregard our basic journalistic principles in the interest of publishing a story that does not meet our standards simply because it is politically interesting and has the potential to create a splash."

Renner was not fired "due to his involvement with the story or his interest in its publication," Haggerty added.

In addition to demanding reinstatement, Renner is asking the court to declare the unpublished story he submitted to Scene was not defamatory. The lawsuit names as a defendant the gubernatorial candidate, Ohio State Sen. …

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