Jack Kelley, one of USA Today's most prominent correspondents, has resigned from the newspaper in the wake of an internal inquiry into allegations that some of his reporting had been fabricated.
None of his articles has been
publicly retracted. And the
newspaper says that Kelley's
resignation earlier this week has
settled the matter.
"Based on what we know now,
we're done with the investigation," said editor Karen Jurgensen. Asked if she were confident
that Kelley's reporting was accurate, she replied, "We're not in
a position of correcting anything at this time."
Kelley did not respond to repeated messages seeking comment left at his home and
through an associate of his wife,
Jacki Kelley, a senior vice president for advertising at the
Gannett Co. newspaper. The
resignation was first reported
yesterday by The Washington
Post, to whom Kelley denied
that he falsified any reporting.
He pointed to the absence of
any corrections as a vindication
of his professional integrity but
said he nonetheless decided to quit.
Kelley, 43, graduated from the
University of Maryland in 1982
with a bachelor's degree in journalism. He has worked for more
than two decades with USA Today, traveling widely and covering many of the world's most
dangerous spots. Since the September 2001 terrorist attacks in
the United States, he has chronicled much of the American response in such places as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.
He is the sole reporter ever to
be a Pulitzer Prize finalist for
work done at USA Today.
Former USA Today Editor
David Mazzarella said Kelley
was an appealing figure who
could often elicit surprising nuggets of information and candid
quotations for impressive
scoops. His stories often involved unidentified sources
about sensitive military and intelligence matters, said Mazzarella, who stepped down in 1999.
"I always questioned him very
carefully, and quite hard -- as
hard or harder than other reporters -- but I never was aware
of anything that was falsified or
'improved,'" Mazzarella said.
"He had a personality that does
seem to make people open up to
The internal inquiry was
prompted by pointed questions
that were said to be raised last
June in an anonymous complaint about some of Kelley's
stories filed from abroad. The
Post reported that several of his
articles withstood scrutiny, although one, from Cuba, could
not be verified. However, several
of Kelley's former colleagues,
speaking on condition they not
be named, said editors at USA
Today were well aware before
last year that some journalists
were skeptical about the veracity of some of his reporting.
As an example, two former
colleagues separately described
an incident in February 2002,
when Kelley provided quotations from unnamed sources for
an article on whether Osama
bin Laden had evaded capture
from U.S. troops. According to
these journalists, then-USA Today reporter Jonathan Weisman and editor Owen Ullmann
pressed Kelley for more information but could not verify the
existence of all his sources.
(Weisman, who now works at
The Post, and Ullmann, now
deputy managing editor for
USA Today's editorial page, declined to comment.)
USA Today spokesman Steven Anderson said that he
would not address when the
newspaper became aware of any
allegations of wrongdoing by
Kelley, calling it a "personnel issue."
"Our policy is to correct these
things that can be corrected or
when corrections are warranted," Anderson said.