The Cape Cod Times had employed Karen Jeffrey, 59, since 1981, primarily as a police and courts reporter, though the stories she is accused of partly or completely fabricating tended to be general assignment coverage of holiday events and other features, Peter Meyer, the paper's publisher, and Paul Pronovost, the editor, said in an apology to readers Tuesday.
In total, a check of Jeffrey's work yielded 69 sources in 34 stories who could not be located and appeared to have been made up. The newspaper notes it has only checked back to 1998, when electronic story archives were started.
"We needed to share these details, as uncomfortable as they are, because we are more than a private company dealing with a personnel issue -- we are a newspaper and we have broken our trust with you," the men wrote in a column addressed to readers.
Jeffrey no longer works at the newspaper, which has a daily circulation of about 36,000, they said.
Editors first became suspicious after an article about a local Veterans Day parade raised questions. When asked to produce the sources quoted in the article, Jeffrey said she couldn't and had thrown away her notes from the assignment. A more extensive search of public records and Facebook profiles of all her work revealed she'd been fabricating sources for years, the newspaper said.