is it legal to state a newspaper wrote an article when in fact it
He looked at the newspaper on the table. The Chicago Tribune featured
an article that read, "Hank Reed sentenced to 20 years in prison."
That is not defamatory with respect to the newspaper, which is what I gather you are asking.
A fictional title of that type does not harm (and does not even tend to harm) the reputation of The Chicago Tribune. Except for very specific, elaborate, and unlikely circumstances, it would be unreasonable to allege that this or akin fictional title in a novel has damaged the image of the newspaper company.
Generally speaking, it would not be defamatory with respect to a third party either (whether or not that person's name happens to be Hank Reed). For it to be defamatory, the novel would have to be such that its context reasonably supports a conclusion that the Hank Reed of the novel (1) essentially alludes to some real individual whose characteristics resemble or are similar to those of that character; (2) that individual has not been sentenced to prison; and (3) the fictional sentence of imprisonment is associated to some reproachable conduct that in the novel is attributed to that character Hank Reed.