Jack Kelley, one of USA Today's most prominent correspondents, has resigned fromthe newspaper in the wake of aninternal inquiry into allegationsthat some of his reporting hadbeen fabricated.
None of his articles has beenpublicly retracted. And thenewspaper says that Kelley'sresignation earlier this week hassettled the matter.
"Based on what we know now,we're done with the investigation," said editor Karen Jurgensen. Asked if she were confidentthat Kelley's reporting was accurate, she replied, "We're not ina position of correcting anything at this time."
Kelley did not respond to repeated messages seeking comment left at his home andthrough an associate of his wife,Jacki Kelley, a senior vice president for advertising at theGannett Co. newspaper. Theresignation was first reportedyesterday by The Washington Post, to whom Kelley deniedthat he falsified any reporting.He pointed to the absence ofany corrections as a vindicationof his professional integrity butsaid he nonetheless decided to quit.
Kelley, 43, graduated from theUniversity of Maryland in 1982with a bachelor's degree in journalism. He has worked for morethan two decades with USA Today, traveling widely and covering many of the world's mostdangerous spots. Since the September 2001 terrorist attacks inthe United States, he has chronicled much of the American response in such places as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.He is the sole reporter ever tobe a Pulitzer Prize finalist forwork done at USA Today.
Former USA Today EditorDavid Mazzarella said Kelleywas an appealing figure whocould often elicit surprising nuggets of information and candidquotations for impressivescoops. His stories often involved unidentified sourcesabout sensitive military and intelligence matters, said Mazzarella, who stepped down in 1999.
"I always questioned him verycarefully, and quite hard -- ashard or harder than other reporters -- but I never was awareof anything that was falsified or'improved,'" Mazzarella said."He had a personality that doesseem to make people open up tohim."
The internal inquiry wasprompted by pointed questionsthat were said to be raised lastJune in an anonymous complaint about some of Kelley'sstories filed from abroad. The Post reported that several of hisarticles withstood scrutiny, although one, from Cuba, couldnot be verified. However, severalof Kelley's former colleagues,speaking on condition they notbe named, said editors at USA Today were well aware beforelast year that some journalistswere skeptical about the veracity of some of his reporting.
As an example, two formercolleagues separately describedan incident in February 2002,when Kelley provided quotations from unnamed sources foran article on whether Osama bin Laden had evaded capturefrom U.S. troops. According tothese journalists, then-USA Today reporter Jonathan Weisman and editor Owen Ullmannpressed Kelley for more information but could not verify theexistence of all his sources.(Weisman, who now works atThe Post, and Ullmann, nowdeputy managing editor forUSA Today's editorial page, declined to comment.)
USA Today spokesman Steven Anderson said that hewould not address when thenewspaper became aware of anyallegations of wrongdoing byKelley, calling it a "personnel issue."
"Our policy is to correct thesethings that can be corrected orwhen corrections are warranted," Anderson said.