Karen Jurgensen Steps Down in Wake of Plagiarism Scandal

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- USA Today's ongoing scandal involving fabricated stories by one of its top reporters claimed another victim yesterday, as the daily newspaper's top editor, Karen Jurgensen, abruptly resigned yesterday.

An assistant in the editor's office this

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morning said Ms. Jurgensen was no longer at the paper and that Ms. Jurgenesen "was not making comments to the press." She had been at USA Today for 21 years.

Fabricated stories
Earlier this year the nation's largest newspaper, with a circulation of more than 2 million, discovered its star foreign correspondent, Jack Kelly, had fabricated or plagiarized a series of stories. He resigned in January. Mr. Kelly had been a 2002 Pulitzer Prize finalist, but the story for which he earned his nomination was called into question following a subsequent investigation by the paper. In March, USA Today reported Mr. Kelly faked portions of at least eight major stories.

At the Newspaper Association of America's annual conference in Washington, Douglas McCorkindale, chairman-CEO of USA Today's parent company Gannett Co., simply shook his head when asked to comment on Ms. Jurgensen's exit. A spokesman declined to make any comment beyond the internal memo USA Today Publisher Craig Moon sent staffers yesterday.

Search for replacement
Executive Editor Brian Gallagher will assume Ms. Jurgensen's responsibilities on an interim basis while the paper searches for her replacement.

In 2003, the fabrications and plagiarisms of former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair began a chain of events that led to the exits of its two top editors, Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd.

Ms. Jurgensen's exit came two days before the NAA conference will feature a panel entitled "Newsroom Ethics and Standards: Learning from a Tough Year."

It's the second straight year that major industry news broke during the NAA convention. During last year's conference in Seattle, a dispute over the joint-operating agreement between Hearst Newspapers' Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the independently led Seattle Times worsened and went public.

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