In a blog post, Guardian US editor Lee Glendinning said the articles were written by Joseph Mayton, who began freelancing for The Guardian in 2009.
Mayton went on to produce 64 pieces for the newspaper on subjects including wildfires, marijuana farms and whale deaths.
Glendinning said The Guardian first realised the reporter had “breached our trust” after sources quoted in several stories denied ever having spoken to Mayton.
The Guardian then hired an independent fact-checker to investigate all of his prior work. The investigator found stories about events that organisers said he did not attend, as well as dozens of sources that either had no online presence or were anonymous and could not be substantiated.
“We want to apologise to those people whose words were misrepresented or falsified,” Glendinning said. “We also want to say sorry to you, our readers, for the errors that have been made here, and hope that it has not compromised the trust you place in The Guardian. We assure you we will do better.”
The newspaper said it would start conducting more research into the freelancers it works with and would question the use of anonymous sourcing in any story – “a policy we hold, but have not enforced strictly enough”.
The Guardian said that Mayton “has denied any fabrication, and did not provide any on-the-record comment about the findings of our investigation”.
Mayton’s fabrications follow the resignation of Jayson Blair from The New York Times in 2003 after it was discovered his stories were riddled with plagiarism and invented material.
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