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

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

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

USA Today released a list of the removed articles as well as a brief account of its investigation into Miranda, which the company said began with an “external correction request” several weeks ago. The audit eventually broadened to encompass a wide swath of her reporting, which focused on trending topics and viral stories.

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

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

Gannett, the biggest U.S. newspaper chain, wants less opinion in its pages

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

Such instances have often led to scandal. The Post gave back a Pulitzer Prize in 1981 after its reporter, Janet Cooke, admitted she had concocted a story about an 8-year-old heroin addict. The Times was similarly embarrassed in 2003 by revelations that reporter Jayson Blair had made up events in stories published under his byline and had plagiarized other reporters’ stories. USA Today reporter Jack Kelley resigned in 2004 after the newspaper couldn’t verify assertions he made in stories he reported from around the world.

Before joining USA Today, Miranda worked briefly for the Gainesville Times, covering education and issues pertinent to the Hispanic community. The newspaper’s general manager, Norman Baggs, declined to comment.

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

Her first story for USA Today was published in spring 2021, according to a news archive search. Her most recent, an April story 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 she had recently switched to the breaking news and enterprise beat, which she said “is what [she] really wanted to go into.”

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

This article has been updated to reflect a response from the Gainesville Times.