USA Today will review Kelley's work

Former reporter says his stories will bear up to scrutiny

January 17, 2004|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN STAFF

The editor and publisher of USA Today announced yesterday that the national newspaper would launch an independent review of all the articles written by former star foreign correspondent Jack Kelley.

The review will extend to "all related matters that the committee conducting the examination may choose to explore," editor Karen Jurgensen and publisher Craig Moon said in a written statement.

Kelley was forced to resign earlier this month after editors confronted him with evidence of his efforts to deceive them during an earlier, aborted inquiry into several of his articles.

Through a spokesman, the newspaper's top executives declined further comment yesterday.

"I'm proud of my work and know that my reporting will hold up under scrutiny," Kelley said yesterday in a statement released by his lawyer. "I hope that this investigation is both full and fair."

USA Today decided to initiate this second review in the wake of new questions raised by The Sun and The Washington Post about the veracity and originality of other articles Kelley reported and wrote. The mandate of the review resembles that of the wide-ranging inquiry set up at The New York Times after it was determined that former Times reporter Jayson Blair had fabricated and plagiarized elements in several dozen articles.

The Sun reported yesterday that Kelley had been credibly accused in May 1997 of putting words into the mouth of the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross in what was presented as "a brief interview" for a major article about the group's failure to bear witness to the Holocaust. Though the Red Cross' complaint did not lead to a correction, other reporters at USA Today were angered, according to several of Kelley's former colleagues. Kelley defended the mis-attribution at the time by saying he had permission from the Red Cross president's spokesman to do so. But Kelley's lawyer on Thursday said Kelley had made "a minor mistake."

Last week, The Sun also reported that journalists at USA Today had doubts about Kelley before the recent inconclusive internal inquiry into his work. In one episode, in 2002, two USA Today journalists refused to use quotes provided by Kelley because they could not verify that the sources existed.

Kelley, a 1982 graduate of the University of Maryland, joined USA Today before it published its first edition that year. The newspaper, based in suburban Virginia, is the nation's largest daily newspaper.

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