Cape Cod, MA — A reporter at a Massachusetts newspaper has been fabricating sources for stories as far back as 1998, the paper’s publisher and editor said.
Fifty-nine-year-old Karen Jeffrey has been employed at the Cape Cod Times since 1981 and primarily reported on court and police events. However, the stories she has been accused of partially or completely fabricating have typically been general assignment coverage.
Out of 34 articles, 69 sources could not be located or appeared to have been made up. The paper said it has only checked back as far as 1998 when electronic archives were started.
Peter Meyer, the paper’s publisher, and Paul Pronovost, the editor, said in a column to readers, “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.”
Jeffrey is no longer working with the Cape Cod Times, they said.
Editors at the paper first became suspicious that sources were being fabricated when a story about a local Veterans Day parade raised questions. When Jeffrey was asked to produce the sources quoted in the article, she said she had thrown away her notes from the assignment.
A more extensive search using Facebook and public records found that Jeffrey had been making up fake sources for years. Meyer and Provonost also said, “The stories with suspect sourcing were typically lighter fare – a story on young voters, a story on getting ready for a hurricane, a story on the Red Sox home opener – where some or all of the people quoted cannot be located.”
The paper will now be spot-checking its reporters’ articles more frequently,and will choose articles at random for source verification. Jeffrey’s fabricated articles will be removed from the paper’s website with a note explaining why they were removed.