Murdochs Grilled in UK, Enquirer Ensnared Again

Jul 19, 2011 at 10:00 am

The phone hacking scandal surrounding Rupert Murdoch’s British newspapers continues to explode, as the media baron and his son are appearing before a Parliament committee at this very moment. (Follow the proceedings on BBC’s web site here.)

Several U.S. media outlets have reminded the public that an American newspaper once faced its own phone hacking scandal, when The Cincinnati Enquirer was forced to apologize and pay $14 million to Chiquita Brands International in 1998 and renounce its investigative series on Chiquita and then-CEO Carl Lindner. So Cincinnati was on the cutting edge on yet another international trend.—-

(If you don't remember what the Enquirer/Chiquita fuss was all about, check out my five-year-anniversary analysis from 2003 here.)

One of the most surprising roundups of The Enquirer’s 1998 fiasco — and a very insightful take — is the lead item on the web site of the Newseum, the Washington, D.C.-based journalism museum. (Read it here.) The writeup is surprising only because the Newseum was founded in large part by the Gannett Co. and is currently led by a former Gannett executive; Gannett owns The Enquirer. But it's a timely and newsworthy topic in the world of journalism, and I praise the site's editors for their decision to publish the piece.

The Newseum article concludes, rightfully so, “Whether the allegations against Chiquita were true or untrue became secondary to the unlawful reporting techniques. The reporter lost his job, and The Enquirer lost its longstanding reputation for fairness and accuracy. ... Unlike Murdoch’s News of the World, which folded in the aftermath of public outrage after 168 years in print, The Enquirer recovered and is still in business. But the paper remains a footnote in discussions on press credibility.”