By: Joe Strupp
USA Today on Tuesday plans to run what is being described as a “lengthy, blow-by-blow chronology” of the actions that led to last week’s resignation of former foreign correspondent Jack Kelley.
Sources at the paper told E&P that the “detailed report” could run at least a full page or more and would offer the first explanation from editors about what sparked the recent investigation into Kelley’s work, which eventually led him to resign on Jan. 6.
“I think they are going to put out a lot,” said one employee of USA Today. “It looks like the cover-up did him in more than the deed itself. That is what they are going to lay out.”
Editor Karen Jurgensen declined to comment on the report, referring inquiries to spokesman Steve Anderson. He said only that the paper was “looking into running” something on the Kelley matter this week. “I’m not sure exactly when it will be,” he told E&P.
After Kelley, 43, left his job, The Washington Post reported that USA Today had been looking into allegations since June that he falsified elements of stories following an anonymous tip. The Post also revealed that USA Today had assigned another reporter to review several past Kelley stories, but that no definitive proof of wrongdoing had been found.
Kelley, who could not be reached for comment, reportedly told others that he resigned because the investigation had created a “hostile atmosphere” at the paper in which he was unable to work.
Since the resignation, Jurgensen and Executive Editor Brian Gallagher have declined to say exactly what the investigation found or why they chose to pursue it so closely. The paper did not even report on the matter until Friday, when it published a four-paragraph item saying that an investigation had occurred, but that no retractions or corrections were planned.
The story took another turn Saturday when Kelley told The Post that he resigned because he made an indefensible mistake while attempting to defend himself during the investigation. He said he “panicked and used poor judgment” when he encouraged a translator who was not present during a 1999 meeting Kelley had with a human rights activist in Yugoslavia to impersonate another translator who had been there.
Kelley told the Post that the woman who agreed to help him called the USA Today journalist assigned to investigate Kelley and verified Kelley’s account as if she had been there.
Before Kelley’s revelation Saturday, USA Today staffers were clamoring for more information about the situation.