USA Today Says Reporter Faked Stories

  1. I wonder how many more "reporters" fake stories, and/or distort the truth. . .


    USA Today Says Reporter Faked Stories

    Published: March 19, 2004

    A team of journalists who spent seven weeks examining the work of a former USA Today reporter has found "strong evidence" that he made up "substantial portions" of at least eight major articles, the newspaper said in a series of articles about the investigation posted on its Web site today.

    Among the fabrications, it said, were parts of an article based on what he described as eyewitness accounts of a 2001 suicide bombing in Jerusalem.

    The reporter, Jack Kelley, 43, was with the newspaper for 21 years before he resigned in January after admitting that he conspired with a translator to mislead editors overseeing a probe into his articles. After he resigned, a new investigation began to determine whether he had plagiarized stories.

    A three-member panel of former editors from outside the newspaper monitored the team of five reporters and an editor who looked in to more than 720 articles Mr. Kelley wrote from 1993 through 2003.

    The investigation found that in addition to the eight major articles with problems, Mr. Kelley also "lifted nearly two dozen quotes or other material from competing publications, lied in speeches he gave for the newspaper and conspired to mislead those investigating his work," said an article on the USA Today Web site.

    Mr. Kelley's conduct represents "a sad and shameful betrayal of public trust," the three former editors-Bill Hilliard, Bill Kovach and John Seigenthaler-said in a statement.

    The newspaper today quoted Mr. Kelley as saying "I've never fabricated or plagiarized anything" and that he felt like he was being set up.

    Major parts of one of Mr. Kelley's most powerful pieces of work, an eyewitness account of a suicide bombing that helped make him a 2001 Pulitzer Prize finalist, are untrue, including the part where he told readers he saw the bomber, the paper said.

    It quoted him as sticking to his account: "I know what I saw."

    But the evidence, the newspaper said, "strongly contradicted Kelley's published accounts that he spent a night with Egyptian terrorists in 1997; met a vigilante Jewish settler named Avi Shapiro in 2001; watched a Pakistani student unfold a picture of the Sears Tower and say, `This one is mine,' in 2001; visited a suspected terrorist crossing point on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in 2002; interviewed the daughter of an Iraqi general in 2003; or went on a high-speed hunt for Osama bin Laden in 2003.

    "Perhaps Kelley's most egregious misdeed occurred in 2000, when he used a snapshot he took of a Cuban hotel worker to authenticate a story he made up about a woman who died fleeing Cuba by boat," the USA Today report said.

    But it said the woman did not in fact flee by boat, and a reporter located her-alive-this month.

    Incidents of plagiarism and phony reporting have rocked the journalism industry in recent years; last year The New York Times was jolted after it discovered that a reporter, Jayson Blair, had made up a number of articles he wrote for the paper.

    The USA Today team is continuing to examine Mr. Kelley's work. The newspaper said it will withdraw prize entries it made on his behalf and will flag stories of concern in its online archive.

    "As an institution, we failed our readers by not recognizing Jack Kelley's problems," the newspaper's publisher, Craig Moon, said. "For that I apologize. In the future, we will make certain that an environment is created in which abuses will never again occur."