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USA Today editor quits in wake of scandal
Updated: 2004-04-21 11:47

The editor of USA Today, the largest newspaper in the United States, resigned on Tuesday in the wake of an investigation that found a former star reporter fabricated portions of major international stories, the newspaper said.

USA Today Editor Karen Jurgensen, 55, retired on Tuesday, a month after the paper published a series of stories detailing deceptions by foreign correspondent Jack Kelley. Jurgensen, who had been editor since 1999, became the first of the paper's senior editors to depart in connection with the scandal.

Kelley, 43, resigned from USA on Jan. 6 after the newspaper said he had engaged in an "elaborate deception" during the initial inquiry into his work.

A subsequent investigation found that Kelley had fabricated substantial portions of eight major stories from around the world, lifted material from other publications, lied in speeches given for the paper and conspired to mislead the team of senior journalists investigating his work, USA Today said.

The newspaper said Kelley had apparently fabricated part of a story for which he was named as a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize.

Publisher Craig Moon announced Jurgensen's resignation in a six-paragraph e-mail to the newspaper's staff.

"Karen Jurgensen has announced her retirement effective today, Tuesday, April 20th," Moon wrote in the text released by the newspaper.

"She has been meticulous in every detail since becoming editor. As a result of her efforts, Karen has improved both the presentation and the content of the newspaper," Moon said.

In a statement also released by the newspaper, Jurgensen expressed regret that Kelley's deceptions had gone unnoticed.

"Like all of us who worked with Jack Kelley, I wish we had caught him far sooner than we did. The sad lessons learned by all in this dreadful situation will make USA TODAY a stronger, better newspaper," she said.

Moon said that the search for a new editor is under way.

A USA Today spokesman said the newspaper had no comment beyond Moon's e-mail.

Northern Virginia-based USA Today is the nation's largest circulation daily with more than 2 million readers. It is the flagship of the Gannett Co newspaper chain.

USA Today's investigation of Kelley was set in motion last May when the scandal over fabricated stories by former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair prompted other newspapers to call on anyone with concerns about the accuracy of stories to come forward.

At about that time, according to USA Today, the newspaper received an anonymous complaint from a staff member suggesting some of Kelley's work might have been embellished or made up.

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