The Chiquita Phone Hacking Scandal

Friday, July 08, 2011


14 years ago another phone hacking scandal shook up journalism - but this one was in the Cincinnati Enquirer and it involved a year-long investigation of global fruit behemoth Chiquita.  The resulting piece uncovered many examples of Chiquita breaking the law and endangering its workers but it was almost completely forgotten two months later when the Enquirer disclosed and apologized for one of its reporters breaking into Chiquita's voicemail system.  It's taught as a journalistic ethics object lesson but Brooke and Poynter ethics professor Kelly McBride disagree about what the lesson should be.

Comments [4]

Chris from Cincinnati

What the Chiquita case demonstrates is the lack of protection for whistleblowers in the US. If we had strong whistleblower protection laws, then the lawyer at Chiquita could have come forward on his own to tell the story of wrong doing on behalf of the Chiquita company rather than leading the hack reporter to the damning evidence.

Jul. 13 2011 08:12 PM
bking from san diego

if one has heard the legal phrase 'fruit of the poison tree'(no pun),one can understand breaking the law to obtain evidence,the evidence is illegal and therefor inadmisible..always.the police cant do it..the press cant do it..and corporations cant do it.and niether can anyone else.even if the accused is guilty..authority(be it the state or the press) cannot violate the law to prove it.if one thinks its 'ok' against the powerfull..then its ok against the weak.the whole point of having rules is you must play by cannot wave them when it suits you.

Jul. 11 2011 09:24 PM
Hank from Northern California

I do not understand the standard of ethics professed by Kelly McBride Professor of Ethics at the Poynter Institute. In certain situations,a publisher must 'weigh the worth" of standing on the side of truth vis-a-vis the lesser of two evils". Specifically, in the Chiquita case, a publisher must decide the importance of staying solvent in business or upholding the fourth estate of the first amendment (ie the right of the public in a democracy to be informed of the truth).
Truth is a key principle of fervent democracy requiring citizens to sacrifice even if the reporter(s) must sully oneself in order to get to the truth out due to the gravitas of harm that is done to human lives by the death squads in order for a corporation to maintain its corporation's profits even in a foreign country.
If the Enquirer's editors had any cajunas, they would've stuck with the "principle of the lesser of two evils - who dies and who benefits. I'd rather bandrupt my company over a core principle of our democracy, "truth" rather than give in to a corporation's greed for profit margins.
But then I am of a different generation; one who was drafted and saw the brutality of combat, up close and personal, in Vietnam from 1965 - 1967. I learned what man's greatest potential for evil can be in the name of what was sold to the "public" as protecting our National Interest.
Those in our unit was fully aware of Bechtel's and Monsanto's massive war-profiteering that went on by those executives who do not wish to "sully their hands" in these unpleasant-nesses over there. "Out Damn spot" sayeth the Bard.
Don't believe me? Look at what happens to "Whistle Blowers".
I encourage Ms McBride to reflect deeply what is being said here.

Jul. 11 2011 03:15 AM

That happened in 1998...13 years ago. To this day I don't believe what they publish.

Jul. 09 2011 08:46 AM

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