News Hits

Still getting screwed

In the February issue of Brill’s Content there is a riveting first-person piece by former corporate attorney George Ventura.

The reason Ventura’s job description carries the adjective "former" is the result of his assisting a pair of Cincinnati Enquirer reporters in their exposé of Ventura’s one-time employer, Chiquita Brands International. A firestorm erupted when it was discovered the story’s lead reporter, Michael Gallagher, had broken into Chiquita’s voice mail system. Gallagher, in exchange for leniency from prosecutors, ratted out Ventura, who provided executive voice mail passwords and other information with the agreement his identity would never be revealed. Ventura, who Brill’s pictured in handcuffs, ended up getting arrested, and his high-paying law career went down in flames. All may not be lost, however, for he’s now suing Gannett, the Enquirer’s parent company.

What does all this have to do with Detroit? It turns out the other reporter on the story was Cameron McWhirter, who has since moved to the Gannett-owned Detroit News.

Seems McWhirter, though not accused of betraying a confidential source, still didn’t take too kindly to the way Ventura characterized him. "False" and "libelous" were some of the words the reporter used in a response to Brill’s.

"His article in your magazine was written to serve one purpose: to further a frivolous lawsuit by an admitted criminal against a deep pocket, my employer," wrote McWhirter.

That, in turn, generated a sly observation from John Fox, a columnist at Cincinnati’s alternative paper, CityBeat:

"Calling Ventura a criminal for, after all, helping the reporter himself is like a man having sex with his fiancee and then declining to marry her because she’s not a virgin."

Payback time

While we’re on the subject of newspapers and getting screwed, Detroit Newspapers received more bad news from the National Labor Relations Board last week. (The screwees, for those keeping score, are the striking workers, some of whom, mailers for example, returned only to see their paychecks cut by as much as half more than two years ago.)

The NLRB, according to the unions representing workers, ruled unanimously that the business agent for Detroit’s two dailies "had no legal right to slash wages and change working conditions in March 1997."

"It’s more leverage for the unions that companies are going to have to deal with," said Graphic Communications International Union 13-N President Jack Howe. "It establishes there is a pay-back clock for people who were brought back at reduced pay scales."


The Federal Communications Commission last week voted to allow some new low-power radio stations on the air. It was a victory for the Michigan Music Campaign, whose efforts were opposed by the rich and powerful broadcast industry lobby. However, Tom Ness, music campaign co-founder and co-publisher of the local music magazine Jam Rag, says the ruling is far from ideal. For example, FCC rules apply a buffer to existing signals, making it extremely difficult to shoehorn in microstations (100 watts or below) in large metro areas such as Detroit. For microradio to achieve its potential, that must change, says Ness.

"If it’s the first in a long line of victories then I think it’s a miracle," he says. "If it’s the last, then I guess it’s a disaster."

Hooded road kill

It seems Rosa Parks may have the pleasure of seeing just the invocation of her name put some Ku Klux Klan members in their proper place.

After years of litigation, a federal appellate court ruled last November that the Missouri Department of Public Transportation can’t prevent the Klan from participating in its Adopt-A-Highway program. Seeking an innovative solution to the dilemma, Missouri state Sen. Bill Clay Jr. introduced legislation last week that, if approved, would rename that stretch of highway after Parks.

Clay told the Associated Press: "To have the Klan clean up a section of the highway named to honor the woman who started the modern civil rights movement – I love it."

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