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Providence Journal and Feroce Lawyers Battle Over Errors in Article and Corrections Promised

Thursday, March 02, 2017
GoLocalProv News Team and Kate Nagle

Lawyers representing Rhode Island businessman Giovanni Feroce, and the Chief Legal Counsel for the Providence Journal’s parent corporation, GateHouse Media, have been battling over allegations of errors in an article that was published on January 1, 2017 about Feroce and his company, BENRUS.

After the article was published, Feroce’s attorney Michael Kelly challenged the accuracy of the story and asserted that the article included 17 errors, and requested that the story, “High life crashing down on R.I. entrepreneur Giovanni Feroce,” be retracted and an apology be issued.

Much of the dispute involves a claim in the Providence Journal article that asserted that Feroce’s company was in receivership.

The company was not, and Feroce attests that the printing by the Providence Journal was not only in error, but also damaging.

“Practically, it has impacted certain timelines with capital raising, because a Google search now shows a deceiving headline and misinformation rather than a factual one. On a personal level, fortunately decades of success, commitment, charity, hard work, risk and sacrifice will ultimately shield me from lasting damage. That said, if the misleading context and outright misinformation is intended to hurt me ‘politically,” well then that needs to be seen,” said Feroce in an email to GoLocal on Tuesday.

In a letter sent from GateHouse Senior Vice President, Secretary and General Counsel Polly Grunfeld Sack to Feroce’s attorney Kelly, she denied the request for a retraction and defended the paper’s journalism, but outlined that the company would make corrections.

“Accordingly we will be publishing a correction/clarification of the minor items noted in Exhibit A but will not be publishing a full retraction nor issuing an apology,” wrote Sack.

In addition Sack wrote, “This letter sets forth our position on the matters discussed herein and should not be viewed as an admission of liability or wrongdoing or as limiting, prejudicing or waiving any of our right and remedies.”

In response to the January 31 Sack letter to Kelly, another of Feroce’s attorneys flagged again the importance of correcting the record as it relates to the company’s business health. “While we understand that the Providence Journal may have printed the erroneous information concerning the Court proceeding and characterized the same as receivership proceedings, we are requesting that you acknowledge in the correction that at no time was Mr. Feroce or any of his business entities in receivership. Of all of the issues the Mr. Feroce has with the article, the inaccurate statement concerning the receivership is the most concerning and damaging to him and his entities,” wrote Michael Mineau.

Corrections

According to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, “Respond quickly to questions about accuracy, clarity and fairness. Acknowledge mistakes and correct them promptly and prominently. Explain corrections and clarifications carefully and clearly.”

“I am sure that Gatehouse is somewhat removed from the individual goings on of just one of their assets, so I appreciate their willingness to look at this seriously and make corrections,” said Feroce in an email to GoLocal.

“As far as timeline, I am ok with the process taking its course, however the minute they realized the court’s ‘clerical error’ and I was never in receivership, an immediate correction should have been made, without hesitation and inclusive of emphasis that such an egregious error is to be taken seriously.”

Now over a month after the letter from Sack to Kelly outlining corrections and clarification, it is unclear if the corrections have been published. According to the newspaper’s archives of stories, no corrections have been published online. When asked if the corrections had been published, Providence Journal Executive Editor Dave Butler said, “Feel free to check the paper for what we printed.”

“The Journal has reported on the numerous legal matters involving Mr. Feroce and will continue to do so based on their newsworthiness. Per our policy, we corrected some minor errors in one story. I would call your attention to a story published last Saturday which reported on complaints filed by the state against two of Mr. Feroce’s companies for failing to provide workers’ compensation insurance. We are simply reporting on actions taken by officials. I would suggest rather than relying on letters from his attorney that you examine the actual legal documents,” said Butler. He responded to questions emailed to Sack.

As referenced in Butler’s quote, the Providence Journal wrote another story on February 24, “R.I. charges 2 Feroce companies failed to carry workers’ comp.”

Feroce said that this story is also flawed. “I will say the reporter’s follow up piece again smells of politics and could have included basic information such as pursuant to R.I. Gen Laws §28-29-2, members of a RI limited liability company are not employees under the R.I. Workers’ Compensation Act. Everyone I work with at BENRUS is a shareholder and she clearly knows that from my interview in December,” said Feroce.

Both articles were written by Amanda Milkovits, Journal Staff Writer.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Butler affirmed to GoLocal on Thursday morning that the following corrections have been added to the January 1, 2017 story published by the Providence Journal. These corrections are some but not all of the corrections discussed by lawyers for Feroce and GateHouse’s counsel. They are as follows:

CORRECTION: The June 2015 BENRUS-sponsored golf tournament was at The Preserve in Richmond, Rhode Island. An earlier version of this story misidentified the location.

CORRECTIONS: Because of a clerical error now acknowledged by Superior Court, the original version of this story inaccurately called one of the law suits against Giovanni Feroce a receivership proceeding. Also, in a letter to The Journal, Feroce said Thomas McGovern was his business manager, not his chief operating officer; his company, BENRUS, did not lose a half of a million dollars on a golf tournament because he sponsored the event for “marketing and advertising exposure;” and that a BENRUS store in Rochester was open more than a year, not only a few months. The original version of the story inaccurately said Feroce believes his company will be worth $100 million in five years – not $1 billion– and that he met Alex & Ani owner Carolyn Rafaelian at a URI reunion in 2009, not 2010.

Read the article on GoLocal Prov.