April 22, 2004

A Fraud Flourishes in a Climate of Fear

Here's the lede on today's USA Today piece about the investigation into the Jack Kelley scandal:

"Lax editing and newsroom leadership, lack of staff communication, a star system, a workplace climate of fear and inconsistent rules on using anonymous sources helped former USA TODAY reporter Jack Kelley to fabricate and plagiarize stories for more than a decade, an independent panel of editors has concluded."

A team of newspaper analysts locked in a hotel room for a week with an endless supply of flip charts and magic markers couldn't have devised a more thorough diagnosis of the industry's ailments:

 Lax editing: Lack of standards, or unwillingness to enforce them.
 Newsroom leadership: Focused on process not product; looking inward, not outward.
 Staff communications: Competition instead of collaboration; department silos worthy of the FBI and CIA.
 Star system: Work only with the "easy" people; an inability, or unwillingness, to develop staff.
 Climate of fear: Destructive, defensive culture bent on perfection not performance or risk.
 Anonymous sources: Playing by their rules, not ours.

UPDATE: Hal Ritter, the managing editor for news of USA Today, also resigns because of the Kelley scandal.

 The Hilliard/Kovach/Seigenthaler report on the scandal The problems of Jack Kelley and USA TODAY (also in PDF)

Posted by Tim Porter at April 22, 2004 08:27 AM