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Times accepts Pulitzer-winning reporter's resignation

Rick Bragg said the Jayson Blair scandal has led to a
Rick Bragg said the Jayson Blair scandal has led to a "noxious atmosphere" at the New York Times.

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- New York Times Executive Editor Howell Raines announced to his staff Wednesday that he has accepted the resignation of Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Rick Bragg.

Raines' e-mail announcement comes amid the scandal surrounding reporter Jayson Blair, and soon after the Times published a correction describing how Bragg crafted stories from a freelancer's notes.

The e-mail, which is signed simply "Howell," read:

"Rick Bragg has offered his resignation, and I have accepted it. We know this has been a difficult period. We have full confidence in our staff and will be talking with you more in short order."

Bragg, a national correspondent for the newspaper and best-selling author of two memoirs, told CNN Tuesday that he would resign but said he had done nothing wrong and that he followed Times policy of using the work of freelancers without giving them credit.

Times spokeswoman Catherine J. Mathis told CNN: "Under The Times' dateline and byline policies, the journalist who did the principal reporting should have received a byline for his contribution to the story."

Bragg said the Blair scandal has led to a "noxious atmosphere" at the paper.

"I don't want to let this atmosphere, this kind of noxious atmosphere, become a prison for me," said Bragg, who has a contract to write two more books. Bragg said he had planned to leave the newspaper for several years but stayed because top managers persuaded him to keep writing for the Times.

But that was before the newspaper began conducting an internal investigation of its staff and reporting practices following the resignation of Blair, a reporter the paper acknowledged had plagiarized or faked many of his stories. In a May 11 editor's note, the newspaper's editors asked readers to contact them if they had concerns about previous New York Times stories.

It was a reader's letter that prompted an editor's note in the Times' May 23 editions that said an article written by Bragg on June 15 about Florida Gulf Coast oystermen included material from the on-scene reporting of a freelance journalist.

Bragg said he had done substantial reporting for the article in question, which was datelined Apalachicola, Florida, and carried only his byline. Bragg acknowledged, however, that the writing was based largely on the contributions of an unpaid freelance journalist, J. Wes Yoder.

After the editor's note appeared, the Columbia Journalism Review reported that Bragg had been suspended for two weeks. Neither Bragg nor the Times would comment on a suspension.

Tuesday, the Times said it was reviewing its byline policy as part of an inquiry into the newspaper's practices following the Blair scandal.

-- CNN Senior Producer Rose Arce contributed to this report.


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