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Tribune Publishes Enquirer Investigation Report

Tribune Publishes Enquirer Investigation Report

Posted - May 11, 2003 at 3:41 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- An independent investigation of a scandal involving two former reporters for The Salt Lake Tribune found that while the reporters violated some ethics rules, their stories about Elizabeth Smart and her family were accurate and based on legitimate sources at the time they appeared in the newspaper.

The report published in the Tribune's Sunday editions was the result of former editor James Shelledy's April 28 request for "an independent investigation into Tribune reporters Kevin Cantera and Michael Vigh contracting with a National Enquirer reporter in June 2002 on the Elizabeth Smart abduction."

Shelledy wanted the report published in the paper without editorial oversight, the report states.

Joel Campbell, an assistant teaching professor of journalism at Brigham Young University and James Fisher, University of Utah assistant professor lecturer in journalism, wrote the report.

Both are former journalists and are active members of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Vigh and Cantera sold information about Elizabeth's family and abduction to the National Enquirer for a story that has since been retracted. They were paid $10,000 each for their collaboration. Shelledy fired the two for lying about the deal with the supermarket tabloid.

Days later, Shelledy resigned, saying he no longer had the support of Tribune staffers. Publisher Dean Singleton apologized to the Smart family.

Campbell and Fisher based their report on interviews with Tribune reporters, editors and managers, other experts in journalism and ethics, and attorneys for the Smart family and the Tribune.

The investigators also looked at all the stories the two reporters wrote on the case and examined Tribune policies on reporting and editing.

Neither Vigh and Cantera nor their attorney would comment; neither did Enquirer reporter Alan Butterfield, the report said.

Some of the report's findings:

--Vigh and Cantera acted as sources for other news media, including national and local television, and lost some control over the information they offered.

--The Tribune did not publish the salacious and potentially libelous information that was printed in the July 2, 2002, edition of the Enquirer.

--Vigh and Cantera violated several portions of a written Tribune policy on outside employment, including the rule that all stories and notes written by reporters on duty are the sole property of The Tribune and can't be sold without management's approval.

The report didn't make recommendations or suggest policy changes.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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