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N.Y. Editor Fired Over Fake Letters

May 13, 2000

UTICA, N.Y. (AP) _ An editorial page editor was fired Friday after admitting he fabricated letters to the editor that appeared in the newspaper _ letters that commented on his own column.

Russ Davis, who worked at the Gannett-owned Utica Observer-Dispatch for 20 years, made up 11 letters published in Sunday’s newspaper, said publisher Donna Donovan, citing an internal investigation.

Davis also admitted making up several other letters that had appeared over the past three months, Donovan said.

``We have a standard practice for confirming letters to the editor before they are published,″ she said. ``Because Russ Davis oversaw the page and also was the person who produced it, he was able to circumvent that process without detection.″

Donovan said she and others became suspicious when so many letters on Davis’ column regarding Vietnam appeared in last Sunday’s paper.

``We were unable to confirm 11 people listed as letter writers,″ Donovan said. ``After we called this to Russ’ attention, he admitted that he had created the letters to give the appearance of high interest in his column.″

Mark Wolber, Davis’ lawyer, said his client was still looking into the specific allegations.

``In terms of whatever may have been done, Mr. Davis feels very badly,″ Wolber said. ``But there was definitely no one harmed by anything that he did _ no malice to anyone, no harm to anyone.″

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