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John Hollenhorst Reporting...A long-time Tribune reporter told us today, the newspaper has "a very sad, very dispirited staff right now."
There's concern the paper's credibility has been damaged. Efforts are already underway to restore the Trib's reputation.
Glen Warchol/Tribune Reporter: "EVERYBODY WAS HURT. MANY PEOPLE WERE QUITE ANGRY ABOUT IT."
Tribune reporter Glen Warchol says he felt literally sick when he learned what his colleagues had done.
Last June, Tribune reporters Kevin Cantera and Michael Vigh picked up information -- or gossip -- about the Smart family that was so unverified the Tribune's own standards wouldn't allow it to be published.
It wound up in the National Enquirer instead, scandalous accusations about a secret family sex ring. The tabloid paid the Tribune reporters $10,000 each, a deal that was secret until last week.
Warchol says the Tribune newsroom was stunned to learn the two had sold out their reputations.
Glen Warchol/Tribune Reporter: "BUT THEY ALSO PUT ALL OF OUR REPUTATIONS OUT THERE. AND DAMAGED ALL OF OUR REPUTATIONS NOW, ALONG WITH THE WHOLE NEWSPAPERS' REPUTATION. AND THEY NEVER CONSULTED US."
Part of the newsroom turmoil was because many staffers questioned the way Editor Jay Shelledy handled the revelation late last week. He put the two on probation instead of firing them. And instead of allowing the reporting staff to explore the issue in news stories, Shelledy wrote a letter from the editor to readers.
Glen Warchol/Tribune Reporter: "THERE WAS A LOT AN ANGER ABOUT THAT, AND DISAPPOINTMENT IN THAT THE WAY IT WAS HANDLED. NOW, THOUGH, THINGS ARE CHANGING RAPIDLY."
Yesterday, the Enquirer threatened to sue the Tribune for misrepresenting the tabloid's dealings with the two reporters.
Today, Shelledy fired the two reporters after he learned more about the exact conversations between his reporters, and the Enquirer.
The issue is whether they vouched for the scandalous information or told the tabloid it needed to be verified. The firings came after the Enquirer produced a tape of those conversations.
But Shelledy believes the Tribunes' credibility is not lost, even after such a messy dust-up with a notorious tabloid.
VOICE OF JAY SHELLEDY, TRIBUNE EDITOR: "THE SERIOUS AND EMBARRASSING MISTAKES OF TWO OF ITS REPORTERS WILL ERODE THAT CREDIBILITY. BUT IT TAKES MORE THAN JUST TWO REPORTERS DOING SOMETHING LIKE THAT TO UNDERCUT THE FINE WORK THAT THE OTHER REPORTERS ARE DOING."
All day the Trib news staff has been working on its own statement, which they hope to publish in the paper tomorrow, without management review.
But in spite of the hurt in the newsroom, one reporter said it shouldn't be forgotten that the real victims in this episode are members of the Smart family.