USA Today would field new Kelley allegations

January 14, 2004|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN STAFF

The top editor of USA Today said yesterday that the national newspaper will investigate any new, specific challenges to the reporting of disgraced former correspondent Jack Kelley. Its own inquiry into the veracity of several of his articles was shut down when Kelley was forced to resign last week after having acknowledged deceiving editors.

"We'll look into any specific allegations that arise," USA Today Editor Karen Jurgensen said yesterday in an interview. "We have to let the situation play out. This was a very painful situation for our staff."

However, the newspaper's inconclusive review of some of his disputed articles did not lead to any corrections, she said, because its editors did not know what the truth was. "We have to be accurate in our corrections as well," Jurgensen said. Some people cited as sources by Kelley could not be found. The recollections of others were vague.

"This is the reality of the situation," she said. "Obviously, given Jack's actions, it's tough" to trust him.

In May, the paper started an inquiry after Executive Editor Brian Gallagher received a complaint from a fellow staffer about Kelley's work from abroad. In one instance, a private investigator confirmed the newspaper's suspicions: A woman presented by Kelley as a translator who could vouch for one of his articles was the wrong person. Only after being confronted did he acknowledge his deception.

Nonetheless, Kelley, a University of Maryland graduate and Pulitzer Prize finalist, has stood by the truthfulness of what appeared in print. His lawyer did not return a call yesterday.

As The Sun has reported, several of Kelley's former colleagues say that previous stories sparked deep skepticism from reporters and editors at the newspaper. However, Jurgensen said she was aware of no previous allegations against Kelley. "At no prior time did anyone raise a doubt with Brian or with me," Jurgensen said yesterday.

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