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article imageCape Cod Times editors discover journalist fabricated sources

By Andrew Moran     Dec 6, 2012 in World
Hyannis - Karen Jeffrey, a journalist for the Cape Cod Times since 1981, fabricated at least 69 sources in 34 of her news stories since 1998, according to her employer. Jeffrey later admitted her fabrication and has now left the newspaper.
On Tuesday, the newspaper’s publisher, Peter Meyer, and its editor, Paul Pronovost, published a letter of apology to Cape Cod Times readers following its internal investigation of dozens of stories that included fictitious people.
The newspaper began to question the validity of her work after a story she published on a Veterans Day celebration came into question. Following their initial suspicion, the paper began to look at her past articles through their electronic archives.
An example of a false source occurred in a July 2011 story regarding a Fourth of July parade in Cotuit, which featured 88-year-old Johnson Coggins, who was written as a Cotuit summer resident. However, after searching through public records, there was no such man recorded as well as five other individuals who were featured in the report.
Another instance was a 2006 article on the Falmouth Road Race and the editors were not capable of finding five sources, including Daniel Fortes of San Diego, who was written as a marathon runner. Using the same method as the aforementioned story, he could not be found.
“This column is our first step toward addressing what we uncovered,” wrote Meyer and Pronovost. “We needed to share these details, as uncomfortable as they are, because we are more than a private company dealing with a personnel issue – we are a newspaper and we have broken our trust with you. We deeply regret this happened and extend our personal apology to you.”
Staff editors will now spot-check articles more frequently, the newspaper will select reporters’ stories at random and call the necessary sources to verify that they do in fact exist.
All of Jeffrey’s news stories have been removed from the publication’s website.
The Cape Cod Times is a daily newspaper that serves the town of Hyannis, Massachusetts in places like Nantucket, Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard. It maintains a circulation of 43,000 and is owned by Dow Jones Local Media Group, a subsidiary of News Corporation.
As Poynter noted in September, this summer has not been good for journalists as many were accused of plagiarism, fabrication and blatant “unethical recycling.” The news website provided an in-depth look at reporters and news organizations who committed this “sin,” including Jonah Lehrer, Liane Membis and Journatic.
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