Jewish World Review April 22, 2004 / 1 Iyar, 5764
No, I'm not THAT Jack Kelley!
"What's in name?" Shakespeare asked (in Romeo and Juliet). "That which we
call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Yeah, and that which
we call a "horse apple" by any other name would smell...
"USA TODAY editor Karen Jurgensen resigned Tuesday, one month after former
USA TODAY reporter Jack Kelley was found to have fabricated numerous stories
and lifted material from other publications over many years."
Sigh. This new story means that my editor will be deluged with yet more
letters and phone calls demanding that I be fired, and that I'll be
inundated with emails questioning my ancestry.
I'm Jack Kelly. But I'm not THAT Jack Kelley. He's younger and better
looking, was more highly paid, lives in Virginia, and is dishonest. And my editor at my home paper, David Shribman, doesn't look a thing like Karen Jurgensen.
Some of the more perceptive among you have noticed his name is spelled
differently than mine, and have figured out that if I were jetting around
the world for USA TODAY, it would be hard for me to be in Pittsburgh at the
same time. But the calls and letters we've been getting indicate a lot of
Jack Kelly is a fairly common name. There are four "Jack Kellys" and seven
"Jack Kelleys" listed here in the Greater Pittsburgh telephone directory; 28
"John Kellys," and 15 "John Kelleys", plus enough "J. Kelly's" to fill a
small auditorium. None of them are me.
The irony is "Jack Kelly" isn't the name by which my family and friends know
me. I was named John Michael Kelly, after my father and grandfather. Dad
was known as "Jack," so I have been called "Mike" by family and friends
since my birth (except for an annoying friend of my mother's, who persisted
in calling me "Johnny Mike").
I took "Jack Kelly" as a nom de plume in order I thought to avoid
confusion. When I joined the Toledo Blade in 1995, there already was
another Mike Kelly there, so I couldn't have the byline. It became "John
Michael Kelly," my full legal name.
That worked fine until I got my column in 1998. There wasn't enough space
in the signature block for "John Michael Kelly." I had to use something
shorter. I could have gone to "John Kelly," but I've never been known as
"John," and I don't particularly like the name. I still couldn't be Mike,
and there was a "Michael Kelly," with views similar to mine, writing a
column for the Washington Post. "J. Michael Kelly" sounded like a socially
climbing Yuppie, not an old fashioned newspaper man, and wasn't far enough
away from "Michael Kelly" to avoid confusion. So I asked Mom if it would be
all right with her if I used Dad's name (he'd died a few years before). She
said it was.
But there still was a confusion with the Washington Post's Michael Kelly
that caused my daughter 24 hours of angst. He and I were both in the
Persian Gulf for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Courtney had told her coworkers
that her Dad, "Mike Kelly," was covering the war. So when the Washington
Post's Michael Kelly, imbedded with the 3rd Infantry Division, was killed,
Courtney's boss called her into her office to tell her that I was dead. It
was a day before I could let her know I wasn't.
I'd just as soon not be confused with anyone else. But I'd much rather be
confused with the late great Michael Kelly of the Washington Post than with
Jack Kelley of USA TODAY, serial fabulist and plagiarist. And since Michael
Kelly is dead, the confusion would fade over time.
So since this controversy began, I've thought of going to "Mike Kelly" as a
byline. That would
let my readers know me by the same name as my friends do. But the switch
could add yet more confusion.
Since it seems my lot in life to be confused with others with the same or a
similar name, I've also thought of changing my name to "Bill Clinton." That
byline, over my views, would drive my liberal critics crazy.
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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a
deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan
administration. Comment by clicking here.
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