The Cincinnati Enquirer, after renouncing stories it published criticizing the Chiquita banana company, has received subpoenas from a special prosecutor investigating whether Chiquita was a victim of theft.
Enquirer Publisher Harry M. Whipple said Monday the subpoenas had been issued. But he declined to discuss who was subpoenaed, how many employees were involved or what the subpoenas demanded. Whipple said he could not comment because of the investigation by Cincinnati lawyer Perry L. Ancona, the special prosecutor."I've never had any contact with Perry Ancona, but subpoenas have been issued," Whipple said Monday. "I have no further comment because of the ongoing investigation."
The Enquirer on Sunday renounced articles it published May 3 questioning the business practices of Chiquita Brands International Inc. The newspaper said it agreed to pay the Cincinnati-based banana exporter more than $10 million to settle any legal claims. Chiquita has not sued the Enquirer.
The Enquirer's management said it had fired the lead reporter on the Chiquita series, Mike Gallagher, because he stole taped Chiquita phone messages on which the series was based and deceived his editors about how the information was obtained.
Ancona said he would not comment on the investigation. The Hamilton County sheriff also is investigating whether Chiquita property was stolen.
Bob Steele, director of the ethics program at The Poynter Institute, a journalism study organization in St. Petersburg, Fla., said he wonders how the Enquirer's editors could have allowed the problems to occur.
"My question is, where were the editors back in April and early May, in the weeks and days before this story was published?" Steele said. "Good editors will ask hard questions about reporting techniques."
Enquirer reporter Cameron McWhirter, 34, wrote the Chiquita stories along with Gallagher. David Wells, 46, local news editor at the Enquirer, directed the investigative team.
Attempts to contact both staff members at the newspaper for comment Monday were referred to Whipple. Employees were instructed not to discuss the case with outside reporters.
Gallagher, 40, was fired Friday. He had been at the paper since 1995. He declined comment when contacted at home Monday.
His lawyer, Patrick J. Hanley, would only say: "There's going to be a lot of information that comes out in the future, but at this time we're just not going to get into it with the media."