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In retrospect, we should have heard the percussion pounding on the Jack Kelley/USA Today mess ten days ago, when ex-Gannett Chairman and USA Today guiding spirit Al Neuharth ominously noted in an editorial on the latest journalistic fabrication scandal "the buck stops with the boss." And, in retrospect, we should have read USA Today Editor Karen Jurgensen's abrupt resignation four days later as a sign that whatever the paper found internally was Worse Than Expected.

Because it was. Jack Kelley's serial fabrications were worse than Jayson Blair's. But don't believe us. Ask the two Islamic charities that Kelley reported-without any factual basis-had links to Al Qaeda.

At this year's combined annual conferences of newspaper editors and publishers, there were averted eyes and "no comments" (from Neuharth and Gannett Chairman Douglas McCorkindale). Gene Foreman, the former managing editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, wryly noted a likely apocryphal quote of Michael Gartner, who was at NBC News during one journalistic scandal: "When something like this happens on your watch, you suddenly have much more time to spend with your family." But we're struck by what New York Times Co. Chairman Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. said during a journalistic ethics panel. "We had a truly horrible year at the New York Times last year," he said. "Truly horrible." Theirs is now over; USA Today's, unfortunately, is closer to its beginning.

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