Top Gannett VP Vetted Chiquita Story Package p.16

By: David Noack New details emerge about how the failed collection of investigative stories was vetted
and exactly how a reporter used the Chiquita voice mail system to augment his interviews
By david noack
The disavowed Cincinnati Enquirer expos? on Chiquita Brands International was legally vetted at the highest levels of the Gannett Co. rather than at the Enquirer, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The 18-page collection of stories about Chiquita's business practices has since been retracted and the Gannett-owned Enquirer has agreed to pay more than $10 million to the Cincinnati-based banana company.
The scope and specifics of the deal remain secret as officials at the Enquirer and Gannett refuse to discuss the matter, even with their own newsroom staff. But details of the incident have emerged in Chiquita's lawsuit against the reporter and in the Journal and the New York Times.
The issue of exactly who edited, reviewed and approved the 18-page collection of stories that was later retracted in toto has been one of the incident's larger mysteries.

The Journal reported that when the stories were nearly done, they were reviewed by in-house Gannett lawyers and its outside law firm, Nixon, Hargrave, Devans & Doyle. "Philip Currie, Gannett's senior vice president for news, took the unusual step of reviewing the articles personally, Enquirer insiders say. Mr. Currie and Gannett outside counsel Robert Bernius at Nixon Hargrave decline to comment," reported the Journal.
The Journal reported that in October 1997, more than six months before publication, lead reporter Mike Gallagher told Enquirer editor Lawrence K. Beaupre that he had tapped into Chiquita's voice mail system so he could verify the authenticity of the voice mail messages he was receiving from a Chiquita source. Beaupre is said to have told Gallagher not to do it again.
Gallagher has declined to respond to repeated requests for comment. Publisher Harry Whip-
ple also declined to comment on the latest reports.
Illegal voice mail intrusions were cited by the Enquirer as the main reason the newspaper retracted all sections of the stories it published about Chiquita.
In fact, Chiquita's suit alleges that Gallagher spent so much time tapping into the company's password-protected voice mail system that employees there were often unable to access their own mailboxes.
As a reporting technique, according to the court papers, Gallagher posed questions to Chiquita officials, waited awhile, and then used illegally obtained passwords to tap into their mailboxes and eavesdrop on what they were saying to each other about issues the reporter raised.
Chiquita officials, in the legal documents, describe how the voice mail system operates, allowing workers around the world to communicate with each other. They said the voice mail system receives about 12,500 messages a week.
Over several months, Chiquita says, Gallagher recorded more than 2,000 messages. "A review of the stolen messages ? made available to Chiquita only recently as a result of a settlement with Gannett and the Enquirer ? shows that Gallagher timed his illegal entries into Chiquita voice mail boxes so that he could eavesdrop on the company's employees having such discussions," claims the lawsuit.
"Based on the results of his illegal eavesdropping, Gallagher also generated new questions for Chiquita, revised old questions, and withdrew certain questions," says the lawsuit.
The legal action by the multinational corporation is aimed only at Gallagher who was not included in the settlement reached earlier between the newspaper and Chiquita.

SEC Investigates
Meanwhile, the Times reported that the Securities and Exchange Commission is conducting its own investigation into one of the allegations made in Gallagher's stories ? that Chiquita employees may have been involved in a bribery scheme in Colombia.
Chiquita executives said company policy prohibits illegal payments to government officials and that the issue is being monitored by management. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prohibits U.S.- based companies, including their agents and officers, from bribing foreign officials.
?(Editor & Publisher Web Site: http://www.mediainfo. com) [Caption]
?(copyright: Editor & Publisher July 25,1998) [Caption]


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