Reporter Sues His Editor for Libel and Slander
Nicholson, Joe, Editor & Publisher
After Philadelphia Inquirer editor Robert Rosenthal suggested to the Washington Post that Inquirer reporter Ralph Cipriano was biased, Cipriano filed suit. Now he's been suspended.
A PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER reporter who charges that he was forced to "water d own" investigative stories about a local Roman Catholic prelate has filed a lawsuit against his editor, the newspaper and its parent, Knight Ridder Inc.
Ralph Cipriano, an 11-year Inquirer veteran and a former Los Angeles Times correspondent, filed the suit last week after Inquirer editor Robert Rosenthal suggested in a Washington Post interview that Cipriano was a biased reporter.
The lawsuit, which alleges libel and slander, seeks $50,000 in compensation and an unspecified amount in punitive damages.
Three days after Cipriano filed the suit in local Common Pleas Court, he was suspended with pay.
The lawsuit alleges that Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, leader of 1.4 million Philadelphia Catholics, "pressured the Inquirer to water down" Cipriano's coverage of Bevilacqua's decision to close churches and parochial schools in poor neighborhoods at the same time he spent $5 million renovating several buildings, including his own "Main Line mansion" and 'a seaside villa that serves as his vacation home."
The Inquirer caved in, the suit contended, because Knight Ridder wanted to staunch circulation decline and ordered editors to "avoid antagonizing the archdiocese so as not to further jeopardize declining readership."
A spokesman for Knight Ridder did not return E&P's calls. Bevilacqua's spokeswoman, Cathy Rossi, declined to comment on the lawsuit.
In an brief telephone interview, Rosenthal told E&P, "I'm sort of in the middle of all this." He promised to 'call before noon" the following day with a reply to Cipriano, but didn't.
The Inquirer issued a statement: "We disagree with Ralph because we believe our coverage of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has been fair; accurate and relevant. …