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New `fake stories' row hits U.S. media

WASHINGTON, MARCH 21. America's media, already reeling from the Jayson Blair plagiarism scandal, has been rocked by the revelation that yet another top reporter has been making up news stories.

Jack Kelley, senior foreign correspondent for USA Today and a Pulitzer Prize nominee, has been faking major foreign news stories for several years, the paper confessed last week.

In an eerie reminder of the Blair scandal at the New York Times last year, the newspaper carried details of Mr. Kelley's exposure on its own front page and across two pages inside the paper.

After concerns had been raised about Mr. Kelley's work, the newspaper appointed a team of five reporters and an editor to sift through 720 stories he wrote between 1993 and 2003. The probe uncovered some dramatic instances where he appeared to have completely made up large parts of stories that often appeared on the front page. The news sparked a remarkable display of public contrition at the paper. "As an institution, we failed our readers by not recognising Jack Kelley's problems. For that I apologise,' said the USA Today publisher, Craig Moon, on the front page of his own newspaper.

Some of the details uncovered in the investigation of Mr. Kelley's work were truly astonishing.

The paper examined his claim to have been an eyewitness at a 2001 suicide bombing in Jerusalem. In his original copy, Mr. Kelley had written that he saw three men have their heads blown off in the blast. In a first draft of his piece, he described how the heads rolled "with their eyes still blinking". However, police records show that no adult victims of the blast were decapitated.

In another story, Mr. Kelley visited Cuba in February 2002 and wrote a powerful piece describing a group of six refugees heading off to America in a boat. But, he claimed, a storm sank the craft a few days later and no one survived.

He produced a picture of a woman among the group called Yacqueline which was used along with the story. But far from dying at sea, she was tracked by the USA Today team alive and well and living in America. Mr. Kelley was one of the newspaper's star reporters. However, he resigned last year when details of an investigation first began to appear. —

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