by Hannah McCartney
27 days ago
Court upholds decision that the paper's 2010 statement was made with actual malice
A Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals judge has denied the Milford-Miami Advertiser's request to appeal a 2012 ruling that charged the Gannett-owned suburban weekly with defamation and ordered the paper to pay the defamed plaintiff $100,000 in damages. In an article published in the Advertiser on May 27, 2010 titled "Cop's suspension called best move for city," the paper implicated Miami Township police officer James Young, who years before had been mired in legal trouble for accusations of sexual assault that were eventually disproven, in its article discussing another sex scandal in the area. According to court documents, in 1997, Young was initially fired from his job after a woman named Marcie Phillips accused Young of forcing her to perform oral sex on him while Young was on duty. An internal investigation revealed that the two had actually been engaged in a relationship prior and that Young had spent time at Phillips' house while on duty. The allegations, however, were entangled in questions about Phillips' character and concern that she could have been lying about the rape because the relationship between the two had recently ended on rocky terms. When DNA testing on semen found on a rug in the woman's home proved that the DNA didn't match Young's, he was exonerated and reinstated to his position. The Advertiser article explained that Young had been terminated for sexual harassment, immoral behavior, gross misconduct and neglect in the line of duty and also stated that "Young had sex with a woman while on the job," which formed the basis for Young's defamation suit. The 2010 article dealt with similar accusations lodged against Milford Police Officer Russell Kenney, who pleaded guilty to charges that he'd been having sex with Milford Mayor Amy Brewer while he was on duty on multiple occasions. Kenney was suspended from his position for 15 days, but
was later reinstated even though Milford's police chief planned to
recommend his termination to avoid having to use an arbitrator to
dissect the case. Although the article is attributed to writer Kellie Giest, the lawsuit revealed that the paper's editor at the time, Theresa Herron, inserted the section of the article that went to trial. According to court documents, Herron added the paragraphs about Young to Giest's story because she felt the article needed more context about why the city wanted to avoid arbitration. According to court documents from the suit Young filed against the Gannett Satellite Information Network, Gannett responded the to initial complaint by acknowledging that the statement was a defamation of character, but that the statement was made without actual malice on the part of Herron. There is a high legal threshold for plaintiffs to establish a defamation claim, which require the plaintiff to prove several elements beyond a reasonable doubt; for public officials, the threshold is even higher because they most prove that the offender acted with actual malice — in this case, knowing the claim about Young was false and printing it anyway — to win a lawsuit. In its appeal, Gannett argued that Young, as a police officer, did not meet the threshold of a public official required to successfully establish a defamation claim and that Herron's inclusions were based on rational interpretations of documents on the case — even though Young denied having sex with plaintiff Marcie Phillips, he admitted the two had kissed and the arbitrator's report documented one instance in which Young was at Phillips' house while on duty. In the court's opinion denying Gannett's appeal, Judge John Rogers writes that Herron admitted she had read the arbitrator's report from Young's case, which provided no evidence that Young and Phillips ever actually had sex at all. "There was sufficient evidence for the jury to conclude that Herron was well aware that the statement she added to the article was probably false," it reads. "Herron was also reckless in failing to conduct any investigation beyond the records of the original case. She did not seek out Young for comment, nor did she talk to anyone involved in his case."
0 Comments · Wednesday, March 6, 2013
I hope the tabloid Enquirer holds current subscribers and attracts new readers, especially folks who are drawn more to the visual than the verbal. Publisher Margaret Buchanan promises its debut Monday. Trucks will bring it from Columbus, where it’ll be printed on Dispatch presses.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 23, 2013
When a reporter uses the law to pry
public records from resisting officials, readers are supposed to
benefit. And when readers value that invocation of open records laws, it
adds luster to the reporter’s work.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 10:51 AM | Permalink
Newspaper sued by former employees
A group of eight former employees from The Cincinnati Enquirer
filed an amended lawsuit Oct. 19 accusing the Gannett-owned newspaper of age discrimination. The lawsuit, which was originally filed by Joseph Fenton and Catherine Reutter in 2011, was
amended on Oct. 19 to include six more plaintiffs.
The origins of the complaint, which also alleges intentional infliction of emotional distress, began
when Fenton was allegedly told he was performing poorly at The Enquirer.
On November 2010, Fenton was “suddenly informed” by his supervisor,
Julie Engebrecht, that his performance was unsatisfactory. This was
despite Engebrecht allegedly acknowledging that Fenton was a “great
editor” in the same conversation.
From that point, Fenton allegedly tried to smooth problems
over. Working through human resources, Fenton arranged weekly meetings
with Engebrecht to gather feedback and improve his work, according to
the lawsuit. At the end of every meeting, Fenton and Engebrecht
allegedly worked out goals and Fenton would finish the meetings by asking, “Are we
good?” Allegedly, Engebrecht replied by assuring Fenton “things were in
fact good.” Despite the meetings, Fenton was fired on Feb. 18, 2011. He was 57, and he had worked for Gannett (Correction: Previously said The Enquirer) for 14 years, according to the lawsuit. The complaint also says Fenton
had no previous record of discipline, but Engebrecht had allegedly
referred to Fenton as a “dinosaur” and “curmudgeon.”
When he was terminated, at least seven other individuals — all “near or over the age of 50” — at The Enquirer were
laid off as well, according to the lawsuit. Reutter, a co-filer of the lawsuit, was among those terminated. Three of the employees terminated
worked for the online department, and they were allegedly replaced by
“an employee in his 20s who was hired in January 2011.”
This is all despite Fenton having a history of “high-quality work” at The Enquirer,
according to the complaint: “Two (of his) projects were nominated for
the Pulitzer Prize. Upon information and belief, these (two) projects
were the only (two) nominated for the Pulitzer Prize from The Cincinnati Enquirer
during Fenton’s tenure there.” Fenton also directed projects that won
Best of Gannett awards in 2006 and 2008 in a competition with the
company’s 83 other U.S. newspapers, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit goes on to make similar claims for the other
former employees involved in the lawsuit. They were all 45 years old or
older when terminated, and most claim younger, less qualified employees replaced them.
However, in the factual allegations for Reutter,
it’s explained a 49-year-old replaced some of the employees. The lawsuit
notes the employee is younger than Reutter, but that employee is actually four years older than
the youngest plaintiff was when terminated.
The complaint claims Reutter was told in her exit interview “seniority was a factor in the choice of who was terminated.”
2 Comments · Wednesday, September 5, 2012
The decision to publish an entertainment weekly was largely seen as an
attempt by Gannett to take marketshare from altweeklies like CityBeat and similar papers in other cities. In non-industry speak, Gannett was trying to kill us.
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 8, 2012
A federal judge ruled Aug. 1 that the Milford-Miami Advertiser, a Gannett-owned suburban weekly newspaper, was guilty of defaming police officer James Young.
by Kevin Osborne
Buchanan says 3CDC is covered fairly, despite her ties
The Enquirer’s top boss has
told CityBeat that her connection to a major real estate development group was “overlooked”
in a lengthy, front-page article about the organization that was published
Publisher Margaret Buchanan wrote
in response to an email that she didn’t influence the preparation, editing or
placement of an article about the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC).
Buchanan sits on 3CDC’s executive committee, and is in charge of overseeing
publicity and marketing efforts for the organization.
The Enquirer published a 1,900
word-plus article about 3CDC, lauding the group for its efforts to redevelop
Over-the-Rhine despite the economic downturn. Buchanan’s role with 3CDC wasn’t
mentioned, but she told CityBeat it has been disclosed in past articles and
will be done again in the future.
Buchanan’s response was sent
the same day that CityBeat published a column criticizing the lack of disclosure,
and questioning whether her role violates The Gannett Co.’s ethical guidelines
Here’s the full text of
Over several years, The
Cincinnati Enquirer has fully covered the pro's and con's (sic) of 3CDC's development
efforts in Over-the-Rhine for our readers and we are very proud of that
As publisher, I sit on 3CDC's
executive committee — and did not influence any of the reporting on this issue.
Our editor is completely responsible for all editorial decisions. Typically my
participation on this committee is disclosed, although it was overlooked for
the article that ran on Sunday, April 15. It will continue to be disclosed in
A search using the ProQuest
database of The Enquirer’s archives found that the newspaper has published 481
articles and news briefs mentioning 3CDC since the group began its efforts in 2004.
(Given how the database is organized, however, it’s likely that some of the
entries might be duplicative.)
Of the 481 entries, Buchanan
was mentioned in 15 articles. That equates to about 1/32nd of the
Most of the published
mentions about Buchanan’s ties to 3CDC weren’t in articles about the group’s retail
and residential development projects. Rather, they mostly occurred in articles
about 3CDC’s efforts to move a homeless shelter away from Over-the-Rhine.
Also, one mention was in an
article about the new School for Creative and Performing Arts, while another
occurred in a piece marking the 10th anniversary of the police
shooting death of Timothy Thomas.
Interestingly, most of the
mentions occurred after 2010, when local blogger Jason Haap and CityBeat began
publishing items about the lack of disclosure.
This week’s Porkopolis column
mentioned Gannett’s ethics code, which includes such admonishments as “We will
remain free of outside interests, investments or business relationships that
may compromise the credibility of our news report,” and “We will avoid
potential conflicts of interest and eliminate inappropriate influence on
The code also states “When
unavoidable personal or business interests could compromise the newspaper’s
credibility, such potential conflicts must be disclosed to one’s superior and,
if relevant, to readers.”
In her email, Buchanan didn’t
address why these rules don’t apply to her connection to 3CDC.
by Kevin Osborne
Company buyout period has ended
The bloodletting in the newsroom at The Enquirer is over, at least for now.Editor Carolyn Washburn sent an email to the newspaper’s editorial staff this morning, announcing the names of 12 people who have decided to accept a voluntary “early retirement” severance deal offered by The Enquirer’s parent firm, The Gannett Co.CityBeat already has reported that political columnist Howard Wilkinson, longtime photographer Michael Keating and Editorial Page Editor Ray Cooklis were among those departing the media company.Other editorial staffers who are taking the buyout are business reporter Mike Boyer; Features Editor Dave Caudill; news reporter Steve Kemme; Copy Desk Chief Sue Lancaster; Production Manager Greg Noble; Butler/Warren Editor Jim Rohrer; sports copy editor Bill Thompson; Copy Editor Pat Tolzmann; and Copy Editor Tim Vonderbrink.They join Assistant Managing Editor/Sports Barry Forbis and Deputy Sports Editor Rory Glynn, who announced their resignations in March.In her email, Washburn wrote that the company will throw a party in its conference room for the departing staffers on April 12.As one ex-Enquirer reporter said when hearing about the plans, “Some sendoff for those leaving. Washburn is throwing them a ‘proper party,’ whatever that is, for them on the 20th floor, no doubt in the sterile training room where staffers learn about inane new corporate initiatives. A ‘proper party’ for the loss of 350-plus years of experience and institutional knowledge would be an employee tavern of choice with an open bar, but what would Washburn know?”Gannett announced the buyout offer Feb. 9 and gave employees 45 days to decide whether to apply for the deal.At the close of the offer period, editors reviewed applications and made final decisions; some people who apply for the deal potentially could've been turned down if their position is deemed essential to the newspaper’s operation.Under the deal, newspaper employees who are age 56 or older and have at least 20 years of service with Gannett as of March 31 are eligible. Although executives said 785 employees meet the criteria, the deal only is being offered to 665 employees “due to ongoing operational needs at the company.”As part of reductions mandated by Gannett, The Enquirer has laid off about 150 workers during the past two years. Also, employees have had to take five unpaid furloughs during the past three years.Gannett recently gave Craig Dubow, its CEO who allegedly left the company due to health reasons, a $37.1 million compensation package. The Columbia Journalism Review examined what Gannett could’ve bought with that money instead, including paying for the starting salaries of 1,474 staffers at The Indianapolis Star or 310,720 annual subscriptions to The Tallahassee Democrat's website.Here is the full text of Washburn’s email:
From: Washburn, CarolynSent: Wednesday, April 04, 2012 8:39 AMTo: CIN-News Users; ohiodailySubject: saying thank you to our new retireesIt's official now. In the next couple of weeks we will say thank you and best wishes to these colleagues who have decided to take the company's early retirement offer. The complete group is, in no particular order:Dave Caudill,
Howard Wilkinson, Ray CooklisRay will be here until April 27. Greg's last day in the office was a week or so ago, before a furlough and vacation. Everyone else will have their last day next Thursday, April 12.We will have a proper party in the 20th floor conference room on April 12 at 4pm.I'll meet with some small groups in the next few days and we'll have a full staff meeting the week of April 16 to talk about what's next, now that we are confirmed on who chose to retire. There is a plan. :)We will be very sad to say goodbye. But I am happy for these folks who decided this was the right thing for them.Thanks again to Dave, Greg, JR, Sue, Pat, Tim, Bill, Michael, Mike, Steve, Howard and Ray.
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Political columnist Howard Wilkinson and longtime photographer Michael Keating are among the 26 employees who are leaving The Enquirer as part of a buyout deal. Last week was the deadline for editors at
the newspaper to decide whether to accept voluntary “early retirement”
buyouts from employees.