Catherine, Elkridge: If reporters who have reached positions at very large papers are basically liars, why should the public have any faith that reporters at smaller papers are reporting the facts?

Folkenflik: Editors at small-town newspapers say they are far more likely to be held accountable for mistakes or misrepresentations than their counterparts at major national newspapers such as The New York Times or USA Today, the two that have suffered the worst credibility scandals of late. Mistakes on the local level are keenly felt and spark outrage on the home turf of editors (and publishers). That's one reason why many older reporters questioned why Jayson Blair had written only for big papers such as the Boston Globe, the Washington Post and the Times instead of learning the ropes through traditional means -- like covering nighttime crime for a small-city daily.

One thing that emerged after the Blair scandal was the number of complaints about inaccuracies in his articles that fell through the cracks. But I'd also say that you shouldn't write off a whole profession based on the acts of a few notable scoundrels. Most reporters I know from big newspapers are highly capable and conscientious. Many are obsessive about precision and fairness in their copy. A few, clearly, are not. But that's why Blair and particularly Kelley were so damaging -- they corrode trust in a larger institution. From my standpoint as a reader and viewer, I try to rely on more than one media outlet to make sure that stories hold up under scrutiny from different people.

Albert, Clarksville: Do you think Jack Kelley, [formerly of USA Today] and Jayson Blair [formerly of The New York Times] show that there is a problem with the ethics division at the journalism school at the University of Maryland?

Folkenflik: It is an astonishing and disturbing coincidence that both attended the University of Maryland's journalism school. I tend to believe, however, that it is just that -- a coincidence. Kelley graduated in 1982; Blair attended from January 1995 through May 1999, though he did not graduate. The school went through many changes between their tenures on campus; it has become far more integrated into the profession, hiring distinguished reporters and editors as faculty, and serving as the host of the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the National Association of Black Journalists.

Bill Kovach, former editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who was on the panel that wrote a report that provided vivid examples of the failures of editors at USA Today to catch Kelley, said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that he thought the proximity to Washington may have allowed both Kelley and Blair to get caught up in celebrity journalism. I'm not sure that I agree there is a true connection. Kelley's career progressed entirely through his work at USA Today. He joined the newspaper in 1982 before it published its first edition and cultivated relationships with well-placed patrons there in subsequent years. Blair, on the other hand, was reliant on the contacts and support he received from faculty and administrators at College Park's journalism school to advance from internship to internship and paper to paper; I wrote about his relationship to the University of Maryland in this story from Feb. 29.

Steve, Towson: Does hiring an editor at USA Today with a Gannett pedigree stand to perpetuate the problems that created this situation in the first place?

Folkenflik: I think that's a very valid question. Many of the people I spoke to during the USA Today debacle wanted the newspaper to name someone like Kovach himself, who had also been a senior figure at The New York Times but had never been a Gannett editor. Perhaps more than any other newspaper company, Gannett has a very defined corporate culture, with an overriding emphasis on profits and a specific way of managing staffs and approaching the news. It was the very management of USA Today that came under such fire from the panel reviewing the Kelley scandal. And Kenneth A. Paulson, the new editor, is very much a Gannett editor who also trained at USA Today and worked for founder Al Neuharth. But Paulson -- read his biography here -- has been well-received by a staff craving credibility and reform and deserves a chance to show what kind of news report he envisions. His new number two, John Hillkirk, is highly respected within the newspaper industry.

Ronnie, Clarksville: How does Kelly write a story that he had an exclusive with Elian Gonzalez that never happened? There wasn't a single person to check that the meeting actually happened? How does this happen?

Folkenflik: Back in January 2000, Kelley wrote a story of visiting with Elian Gonzalez's father at the father's home in Cardenas, Cuba. Last month, a team of reporters for the newspaper found that he had made up the story, that he had not visited the father there at all. My guess -- and it's simply that -- is that the deception relied on two factors. First, I think Kelley was trusted as someone who could deliver compelling narratives from far-off places. And second, there's not a free flow of information between the U.S. and Cuba. So even an article in USA Today might not get wide circulation there. Had objections been lodged by officials of Fidel Castro's autocratic regime, they might not have been taken seriously. And, as the story was essentially sympathetic to Elian's father, who wanted the boy returned to Cuba, there was not much grounds for protest.

Joe, Baltimore: Why does The Sun never include transgressions that have appeared in its own pages when writing about fabrications?

Folkenflik: I wouldn't say never. For example, here's a passage from the article I wrote last May after Blair was forced to resign from the Times: "The problem of the fabrication or lifting of material has cropped up at many newspapers. In recent years, The Sun fired a classical music critic and reprimanded an art critic for appropriating passages from specialized texts in separate stories. The Globe fired two columnists for pieces that could not be verified. And the [San Antonio] Express-News itself experienced two incidents in which writers reproduced information from other publications without attribution."

I recognize we could do that every time we write about such issues, but I'm not sure that's always the best use of our space. Context matters -- is the article about the industry, or about The Sun or about a specific instance elsewhere? Have we put it on the record? Are we keeping faith with our readers? These are reasonable questions. But, on balance, I think we do a fairly good job. We certainly try and we talk about these issues internally.

Rick, Westminster: Can changes at the top of an organization such as USA Today really do anything to curtail renegade reporters? Why aren't people with more direct contact with the reporter in question being affected?

Folkenflik: The three top editors at USA Today over Kelley are no longer there -- Editor Karen Jurgensen hastily retired, Executive Editor Brian Gallagher has been reassigned to run the editorial pages, and Managing Editor Hal Ritter resigned after meeting with the paper's publisher. It certainly sends an internal message that ultimately people are accountable for what happens under their watch. Additionally, I wouldn't be surprised if the new management team led by Paulson makes significant changes over time at the editing positions below them. Some of the key editors, such as former deputy managing editor Mark Memmott, are already in different jobs. He's now a reporter, a position he voluntarily sought before the Kelley scandal erupted. So I'd say reporters within USA Today are hopeful that changes are real and the newspaper can work to restore its credibility. My story from last week, when Paulson was named USA Today's editor and when other newsroom appointments were made at the newspaper, can be read here.

Janice, Glenn Dale: Are there other journalists at USA Today who are suspected of fabricating stories, too?

Folkenflik: Not to my knowledge. The review panel led by USA Today's founding editorial director, John Seigenthaler, and the team of reporters, led by Hillkirk, had a fairly broad mandate. But I haven't heard they turned up anything on anyone else.

Chuck, Sykesville: The Sun wants us to consider it a trusted source of information. But what steps is it taking to ensure that the kind of public deception that occurred at The New York Times and USA Today doesn't happen?

Folkenflik: I think newspaper editors here and elsewhere are going to have to rise to confront that challenge squarely. Since the Blair scandal, The Sun's editors have spoken openly with reporters and staff about the overriding need for precision, accuracy, fairness and integrity in our reporting. Our internal guidelines about using unidentified sources, which have always been relatively strict, have become even more rigorous, with review at the highest levels of the newsroom in most instances. And the paper's publisher, Denise Palmer, has appointed Paul Moore, a senior and experienced journalist, to become Public Editor, a position he took over at the end of last month. He's already been filing internal memos to the staff about coverage issues -- some comments positive, some negative. He'll be fielding complaints from readers as well as the subjects of stories to determine whether the newspaper handled things fairly. And he'll be writing a regular column about coverage issues. To guarantee that he's not beholden to the newsroom, he'll be reporting to the publisher, not editors. In my role covering the media, I've also tried to make sure to include the newspaper when it seemed warranted, from overhype of the Ravens during the Super Bowl run a few years ago to the prickly relationship between Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and The Sun last year.

Bill, Towson: Why, in your opinion, has there been so many instances of fabricated stories in the last few years? With the exception of the Janet Cooke case, you never heard of such things -- maybe they were hushed by the news organizations involved. Now we've had reporters and columnists at the Boston Globe, New York Times, USA Today and even your paper, The Sun, fired over such transgressions.

Folkenflik: I think newspapers once tended to handle things quietly. Print reporters, save for a few high-profile columnists, aren't so well known publicly. The only reason we all know Janet Cooke is because her story won a Pulitzer -- had she been a metro reporter dismissed by the Post, we never would have recognized her name. But now, with bloggers such as Matt Drudge and Jim Romenesko posting such transgressions, it gets picked up by the national news. So we all know more about these things than we once did.

In addition, it's probably easier to plagiarize and fabricate things than ever before, thanks to Google searches. But it's also easier for someone else to go back and check, whether to see if juicy quotes appear in previous articles, or to reach people with first-hand knowledge of those places and see if the accounts ring true.

Note from Folkenflik: That's it. Thanks for all the great questions.