USA Today has ended its relationship with its longtime crossword puzzle editor after an investigation by ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight exposed on-going plagiarism.
USA Today will no longer run any crossword puzzles edited by Timothy Parker, who is accused of duplicating puzzles from The New York Times, among other publications.
FiveThirtyEight launched an investigation in March, exploring allegations of plagiarism against Parker by using a database of tens of thousands of existing puzzles. Content syndicate Universal Uclick creates the puzzles for USA Today and followed up with its own investigation.
USA Today’s parent company, Gannett, has been in the news lately after its attempt to purchase Tribune Publishing was rejected. Gannett will not feature puzzles by Parker in any publications going forward, as first reported by FiveThirtyEight.
USA Today will continue to get its crossword puzzles from Universal Uclick but issued its own statement distancing the paper from Parker.
“USA Today continues to take this matter very seriously. We conducted our own investigation and we are satisfied with how Universal Uclick has responded to the situation. Timothy Parker is not, nor ever has been, an employee of USA Today. No puzzles that appear in Gannett/USA Today Network publications are being edited by Timothy Parker nor will they be edited by Timothy Parker in the future,” Gannett communications VP Amber Allman said in a statement.
Despite USA Today cutting ties with Parker, it appears he will keep his job after a three-month punishment.
“Mr. Parker will take a three-month leave of absence as editor of the Universal Crossword puzzle. During his leave, Mr. Parker will confirm that his process for constructing puzzles uses the best available technology to ensure that everything he edits is original. We will work with Mr. Parker on this effort and redouble our editorial process so that there is a stronger second level of review,” Universal Uclick said in a statement.