Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Cincy | Appeals court says defamed cop is owed $100K after news weekly said he had sex at work

The Cincinnati Enquirer's weekly Milford-Miami Advertiser acted with malice when it reported three years ago that a local police officer had sex on the job, according to a federal appeals court, which awarded the officer $100,000.

Page One detail: Enquirer
The police department in Miami, Ohio, had fired Sgt. James Young in 1997 after a woman accused him of forcing sex on her, according to a story today by Courthouse News Service. But an arbitrator rescinded the termination after DNA testing ruled out crucial evidence.

When a different police officer found himself suspended 13 years later, the Advertiser reported on the case and included several statements about Young for context. The article said Young "had sex with a woman while on the job" and forced her to perform oral sex him.

Claiming the newspaper included these remarks despite knowing details of his firing and appeal, Young filed a defamation suit against Gannett, according to Courthouse News. After a trial, a jury ordered the Advertiser to pay Young $100,000 in compensatory damages.

Last week, a divided three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit affirmed that order. Courthouse News did not say whether Gannett would pursue further appeals.

The Advertiser is published by the Enquirer's chain of Community Press and Recorder weeklies.

Related: Read the circuit court's 15-page decision.


  1. The Enquirer saved dollars and management jobs by laying off veteran daily reporters, filling the gaps by using stories from its community papers. This shows the dangers to credibility.

  2. Not so fast 8:03 PM as if you read the decision, and dissent, it's not as simple as you'd like to portray it.

    Plus, you also seem to forget how the Enquirer lost millions in its coverage of Chiquita not so long ago at a time when it had a wealth of verteran daily reporters, editors and more.

  3. Think again, 12:13 ... You should read the decision more carefully yourself. The Recorder editor who inserted the historical information about the previous case failed to do basic journalism (seeking comment from the accused person) as well as sloppy writing (she reported half the case from 13 years ago, not realizing that it was libelous to do so). No, this was amateur hour at the paper.

    The Chiquita debacle was different: This was the work of one sleazy, dishonest reporter who had the trust of the editor-at-the-time. There was a lot of good reporting done on that story, but it was tainted by the illegal actions of that one reporter.

    1. There was good reporting in that story, but it sure needed an editor -- a real content editor. The writing and storytelling were abominable. And maybe a real editor would have caught the problem. That project and the repercussions have rankled me for years. And I've never even set foot in Cincinnati.

  4. Read it 2:47 PM and it's still not that simple. Could she, they have used more editorial oversight, sure.

    And, try as you will, but a huge editorial staff and oversight stll allowed Chiquita to occur now didn't it.

  5. But that huge editorial staff was not allowed to use its oversight on Chiquita. The editor-in-chief kept it a secret, and refused to let anyone but 2-3 trusted members of his Chiquita team see it - even the copydesk - until it was published. That was the fatal flaw. They were a tight little group, totally lacking in perspective, too in love with their own product, and trusted one dishonest reporter.

    1. That's close to what happened, 10:56, but it's a little more complicated, according to the American Journalism Review's detailed post-mortem of what happened.

      Before publication, AJR says, the articles were vetted by lawyers with Graydon Head & Ritchie, the Enquirer's local counsel; by Barbara Wall, Gannett's in-house counsel; and its outside counsel in Washington, D.C. Even Philip Currie, Gannett's senior vice president for news, took the unusual step of reading the package.

      One of the most damning details in the AJR story is the allegation that the lead reporter, Mike Gallagher, admitted to top editor Larry Beaupre well before the series ran that he had used illegal means to gather information by tapping into Chiquita's voice-mail system.

      Here's what AJR wrote, which it attributed to a "high-level source" in the newsroom:

      "Beaupre learned Gallagher had gotten access to Chiquita's voice mail system. It had gone beyond receiving tapes. Beaupre warned him not to do it again. The editor also let the paper's lawyers know what had happened. ... After Mike admitted to Larry that he'd accessed the voice mails, he was told not to do it. But by then, he'd already done it."

      Assuming this is true, it's unclear why the lawyers didn't halt the series at once.

  6. We see again that no one here has many ideas outside of keeping staff at former levels.

    Couple of major problems with that approach:

    (1) Revenue streams have declined, making it tough to keep those levels.

    (2) As we saw at the start of this blog, there were many people who never, ever should have been hired. Losing them was a plus.

    I know the multiple, years-long-bitter people might still reject the idea that their workplace kept going without them. But it is true.


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