L.A. Times fires reporter over perceived conflict of interest

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Author: Juliet Suess

The Los Angeles Times fired reporter Jason Felch on Friday following revelations of an inappropriate relationship he had with confidential source for a Dec. 7 article. The article, as well as several subsequent articles authored by Felch, stated that Occidental College did not report 27 sexual assaults it was required to report under the Clery Act in 2012. The L.A. Times retracted this article after college officials presented the paper with evidence that the reporting was in error.

After college officials approached The L.A. Times, the newspaper conducted an investigation on the reporting, at which time Felch revealed that he had engaged in an inappropriate relationship with one of the story’s confidential sources. According to The L.A. Times, Felch did not use that person as a source during their relationship but did before and after. But according to The New York Times, Felch denies using the source following the end of the relationship. Occidental stated in a press release that no one at the college had prior knowledge of said relationship.

L.A. Times Editor Davan Maharaj called the relationship and the delayed disclosure “a professional lapse of the kind that no news organization can tolerate.”

“Our credibility depends on our being a neutral, unbiased source of information — in appearance as well as in fact,” Maharaj said.

Occidental’s carried out its successful campaign to receive a correction from The L.A. Times with the support of the newly hired public relations firm G.F. Bunting & Co.

Last Saturday’s correction published by The L.A. Times explained that several of the incidents cited in Felch’s article did not require reporting under the Clery Act because they occurred outside of the geographical reporting area, were properly reported the previous year or were cases of sexual harassment, not assault. The college has previously acknowledged its failure to report 19 sexual assaults covered by the Clery Act in 2010. A federal investigation by the Department of Education to determine the extent of the violations is ongoing.

Occidental College issued a press release on Monday outlining its objections with Felch’s reporting on sexual assault issues to date.

We want to set the record straight with the facts about Felch’s pattern of unethical and erroneous reporting,” the release read.

Felch apologized for his actions in a statement to multiple media outlets.

“I accept full responsibility for what I did and regret the damage it has done to my family and my colleagues at one of the nation’s great newspapers,” Felch said.

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