USA Today removes 23 articles, says reporter Gabriela Miranda fabricated sources

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USA Today removed 23 stories from its website Thursday after an internal audit concluded the reporter who wrote them incorrectly attributed quotes and, in some cases, may have fabricated interviews and sources.

Breaking news reporter Gabriela Miranda has resigned from the paper and could not be reached for comment. USA Today removed nearly two dozen stories he wrote between spring 2021 (“TikTok bans ‘milk carton challenge’ from its app, citing concerns about dangerous acts”) and spring this year (“‘This is my land, I stay’: These Ukrainian women are among the thousands who choose to fight, not flee”).

USA Today published a list of the removed articles, as well as a brief summary of its investigation into Miranda, which the company says began with an “external correction request” several weeks ago. The audit was eventually expanded to encompass a large portion of her reporting, which focused on hot topics and viral stories.

“The audit revealed that some individuals cited were not affiliated with the claimed organizations and appeared to be fabricated,” the newspaper said in a statement. “The existence of other individuals cited could not be independently verified. Also, some stories included quotes that should have been credited to others.”

A spokesman for USA Today’s parent company, Gannett, referred The Washington Post to the newspaper’s statement when asked for more details. The New York Times first reported that the publication had removed the stories.

Making up sources, quotes or anecdotes is considered journalistic malpractice by most news organizations and usually leads to the offender’s dismissal. Most newspapers correct the record as USA Today has done, alerting readers to troublesome jobs.

Such cases have often led to scandal. The Post returned a Pulitzer Prize in 1981 after its reporter, Janet Cooke, admitted that she had fabricated a story about an 8-year-old heroin addict. The Times was also embarrassed in 2003 by revelations that reporter Jayson Blair had fabricated events in stories published under his byline and had plagiarized other reporters’ stories. USA Today reporter Jack Kelley resigned in 2004 after the newspaper was unable to verify claims he made in stories he reported from around the world.

Before joining USA Today, Miranda worked for the Gainesville Times, covering education and issues related to the Hispanic community. The paper’s publisher, Shannon Casas, did not respond to a request for comment.

While studying at the University of Georgia, from which she graduated in 2021, Miranda worked for a student publication, Red & Black.

His first story for USA Today was published in the spring of 2021, according to a search of the news archive. His most recent story, one from April about a cargo ship stuck in the Chesapeake Bay, has not been retracted.

During a panel discussion for the Stony Brook University chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in March, Miranda said he had recently switched to breaking news and the business beat, which he said “is what [she] I really wanted to get in.

USA Today also announced measures designed to prevent a recurrence of similar problems, including a promise to improve the process for filing complaints and requesting corrections; a requirement that stories “have clear and sufficient identifying information for the people quoted”; and a mandate to “apply additional scrutiny to sources found through blind connections on social media platforms, via email, etc.”

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