The Cape Cod Times' longtime staff reporter Karen Jeffrey fabricated sources in 34 stories, the paper admitted Wednesday.
Jeffrey, 59, has written for the News Corporation-owned daily since 1981. In an open letter, publisher Peter Meyer and editor Paul Pronovost apologized to readers for her transgressions.
It is unclear whether she was fired or resigned; the paper only said in the letter that she "no longer works for" the Times.
Editors began investigating Jeffrey's work on Nov. 12, when a Veterans Day assignment raised questions. They then reviewed her other stories, checking sources through the public-records database Accurint, searching voter registrations and town assessor's records, checking Facebook profiles and attempting to call sources named in stories.
While archiving her older stories electronically, the paper found that 69 people in 34 stories could not be located.
On Tuesday, the reporter admitted making up some of the people in those articles and falsifying names for others.
"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," Meyer and Pronovost wrote. "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."
"There is an implied contract between a newspaper and its readers," they added. "The paper prints the truth. Readers believe that it's true, It is with heavy heart that we tell you the Cape Cod Times has broken that trust."