KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
CINCINNATI -- A federal magistrate has ruled that an editor and a former reporter for The Cincinnati Enquirer do not have to identify confidential sources used in stories about the Chiquita banana company that the newspaper later renounced.
Cameron McWhirter and David Wells can invoke an Ohio law that allows reporters to protect the identities of confidential sources for news stories, Magistrate Jack Sherman ruled this week.
The newspaper published stories in 1998 that criticized Chiquita Brands International Inc. for alleged improper business practices in Central America. The Enquirer later apologized to the company on its front page, renounced the stories and paid Chiquita $14 million.
Confidential source: A former Chiquita lawyer, George Ventura of Salt Lake City, had asked Sherman last month to order the two journalists to discuss Ventura's role as a confidential source for the stories. Ventura says the information is material to a lawsuit he has filed against the Enquirer and its owner, Gannett Co.
Ventura argued that the privilege of not revealing sources did not apply because his identity already had been revealed by another former Enquirer reporter, Michael Gallagher.