Kelley says he quit USA Today over his own actions
Friday's Weblog focused on the resignation of USA Today reporter Jack Kelley, who is not only the star reporter at that newspaper, but also a star reporter among evangelicals in the mainstream media. Weblog wondered, based on a few offhand comments in Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz's article, whether Kelley's faith might have been a factor in tensions with newspaper management.

In a front-page article in yesterday's Post (the original report on Kelley's resignation only made the front of the Post's "C" section), Kurtz unearths more details. It seems far less likely that religion was a significant factor in USA Today's launch of an investigation into the veracity of Kelley's war reporting, but it does appear to be a factor in Kelley's resignation, as he confessed to "poor judgment" during the paper's investigation.

While trying to assist newspaper management in confirming one of his articles, a 1999 front-page story on evidence of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, he tried to contact two Yugoslav translators who could verify his report. One said she remembered translating the crucial interview between Kelley and human rights activist Natasa Kandic, but couldn't remember any details. A second translator left a voice mail saying she didn't want to get involved in the investigation.

Kelley says that when he tried to contact a third Yugoslav translator to help him contact and convince the unwilling second translator, she volunteered to impersonate her in a phone call to reporter Mark Memmott, who was investigating Kelley's stories.

Kelley agreed.

"I knew it was wrong," Kelley told Kurtz. Two weeks later, Kurtz reports, Kelley confessed and apologized to Memmott, USA Today's publisher, the executive editor, his wife (who's also the paper's senior vice president for advertising), and his pastor.

"I resigned because I felt I should no longer work at USA Today because of what I'd done," Kelley said.

Kelley says that all of his stories were wholly factual, and, Kurtz reports, "said his bad judgment stemmed from his conviction that the investigation was 'a witch hunt to drive me out of USA Today.' … Kelley and other staffers say they believe he was investigated so aggressively, based on an anonymous letter, because he had given a negative evaluation of Managing Editor Ritter during a personnel review. [USA Today Editor Karen] Jurgensen said such comments played no role and are kept confidential."

In yesterday's article Kurtz again brought up Kelley's religious beliefs. But unlike earlier reports, this time it's not a non sequitur—it's a counterpoint. "He is an evangelical Christian who told Christian Reader magazine three years ago that he is in journalism 'because God has called me to proclaim truth,'" Kurtz reports near the end of his article. "But he now concedes that he participated in a lie while trying to vindicate the accuracy of his reporting."

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Of course, the mark of a good Christian journalist—or a good Christian—isn't whether he sins (or makes "errors in judgment"), but what he does when he sins.

More articles

Roy Moore (news):

  • Moore claims rights denied | Vowing to continue the fight to get his job back, ousted Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore said the panel of judges who stripped him of his job wrongfully forced him to choose between God and his office (Montgomery Advertiser)
  • Also: Lawyers say court violated Moore's rights | The state court that ousted Roy Moore as chief justice in November violated his rights, his lawyers argued Thursday, because it didn't decide whether the federal court order Moore disobeyed was lawful (The Birmingham News, Ala.)
  • Also: Ousted Ala. justice seeks reinstatement | In appeal, Moore argued in legal briefs that his expulsion sets a "dangerous precedent" and requires judges to deny their oath of office and religious faith (Associated Press)
  • Moore challenges selection of panel | Attorneys for ousted Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore are challenging the selection process the court used to pick new judges when Moore's colleagues recused themselves from the case (Montgomery Advertiser)
  • Judicial Commission defends special court | The Alabama Supreme Court acted within its authority to appoint a special replacement court to hear the appeal of former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, the judicial ethics panel that suspended Moore last year has ruled (Montgomery Advertiser)
  • Pryor asks for denial of Moore request | Moore's lawyers said the justices should have had no role in naming the special court after they removed themselves from the case (The Birmingham News, Ala.)
  • Also: Pryor defends naming replacement Supreme Court for Moore appeal (Associated Press)
  • Roy Moore & wife both headed to court | Moore's wife, Kayla, is headed back to court herself as a retrial has been granted in the auto accident suit she filed (Associated Press)

Roy Moore (opinion):

  • Moore whining | New objections raised by former chief justice (Editorial, The Birmingham News)
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  • Attacking court transparent act | Moore's strategy of trying to attack the process, of questioning the legitimacy of the panel of retired judges that will hear his case, is a transparent attempt to obscure the critical issue of his own conduct (Editorial, Montgomery Advertiser, Ala.)
  • Moore never made to choose | If there were a shred of truth in Roy Moore's contention that he was forced to choose between his job and his faith, it might be possible to find some sympathy for the ousted chief justice. But that contention is so obviously untrue that Moore's persistent pitching of that position borders on the absurd (Editorial, Montgomery Advertiser)

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Launched in 1999, Christianity Today’s Weblog was not just one of the first religion-oriented weblogs, but one of the first published by a media organization. (Hence its rather bland title.) Mostly compiled by then-online editor Ted Olsen, Weblog rounded up religion news and opinion pieces from publications around the world. As Christianity Today’s website grew, it launched other blogs. Olsen took on management responsibilities, and the Weblog feature as such was mothballed. But CT’s efforts to round up important news and opinion from around the web continues, especially on our Gleanings feature.
Ted Olsen
Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's executive editor. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
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