Banana firm skins newspaper for pounds 6m

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The Independent Online
IN A HIGHLY unusual display of humility and self-flagellation, the Cincinnati Enquirer has apologised on the top of its front page for articles about the Chiquita banana empire and has promised to pay it $10m (pounds 6.25m) to stave off a lawsuit.

The lengthy mea culpa was printed as its lead story in its Sunday paper. It will be printed again by the paper, which boasts 500,000 readers in the Cincinnati area, today and tomorrow.

One of the biggest settlements in US journalism, it was agreed to before Chiquita, which is based in Cincinnati, moved to take legal action. The chief reporter, who headed the year-long investigation, has been sacked. The series, which began running in a special section on 3 May, criticised the company's business practices, particularly on its plantations in Latin America. Chiquita is one of the world's largest fruit distributors.

The paper disowned the reports after it found the main source, 2,000 internal company voice mails, were stolen by the reporter. The articles had purported that the voice mails were handed over by an unnamed executive.

The apology was signed by the paper's publisher, Harry Whipple, and editor, Lawrence Beaupre. Chiquita said it commended the paper for "demonstrating courage and integrity in taking these actions".