A Cape Cod Times Reporter Made Up Sources

Cape Cod Times reporter Karen Jeffrey admitted inventing dozens of sources in her stories over the years, publisher Peter Meyer and editor Paul Pronovost revealed in a note to readers Wednesday, and no longer works at the paper that has employed her since 1981. The scandal feels familiar to anyone who remembers more high-profile cases of reporters inventing sources  like those of The New York Times’s Jayson Blair or The New Republic’s Stephen Glass or periodic smaller scandals like that of a Wall Street Journal intern last summer. And it shares some similarities, particularly in the kinds of instances where Jeffrey got away with inventing a source. From the editor’s note:

We were able to verify sourcing in many stories written by Jeffrey, mostly police and court news, political stories, and recently a series on returning war veterans. 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.

It intuitively makes sense that it is easier to get away with inventing a random man-on-the-street interview than it is to misquote a government official, who could raise an alarm with editors. (As an aside, we’re weirdly interested in the names reporters make up when they fabricate people. Jeffrey’s stories included quotes from non-people with amusingly stereotypical Cape Cod-y names like “Ronald Chipman” and “Johnson Coggins.”)

Anyway, if this story plays out like the others, this won’t be the last we hear of it. The editors will likely strive to prove to readers that they’ve addressed the breakdown that allowed fabrications into the paper. “This column is our first step toward addressing what we uncovered,” the editor and publisher write. “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.”