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LA Times Fires Reporter Behind Sexual Assault Story for Sexual Relationship with Source

LA Times Fires Reporter Behind Sexual Assault Story for Sexual Relationship with Source

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Since December, the Los Angeles Times has been reporting that Occidental College has refused to disclose incidents of sexual harassment on campus. Now the paper is apologizing for taking many of those incidents out of context. The paper has also fired the reporter behind the story for having an inappropriate sexual relationship with one of his sources for those stories.

On December 7, the Times reported that Occidental College had not disclosed 27 incidents of sexual harassment. The article, “College received more sex assault allegations than it reported,” claimed that the LA-based college was suppressing reports of sexual harassment at the school and claimed that administrators had violated the Clery Act which requires schools to report serious crimes of that nature.

The Dec. 7 report, along with one on December 20 and another on January 22, were all written by Jason Felch.

By March 14, the paper was forced to apologize for many of the claims in Felch’s report. After complaints by the college were investigated, the Times had to admit that many of the “violations” of the Clery Act Felch claimed occurred ended up not being violations after all.

Many of the incidents, the paper discovered, were not covered by the Clery Act in the first place.

“Some were not sexual assaults as defined by the Clery Act,” the Times explained. “Rather, they involved sexual harassment, inappropriate text messages, or other conduct not covered by the act. Other alleged incidents were not reported because they occurred off-campus, beyond the boundaries that Occidental determined were covered by the act. Some occurred in 2011, and the college accounted for them that year.”

However, those mischaracterizations of the college’s actions weren’t all the paper uncovered in its belated fact-checking of Felch’s work. Editors also discovered that the reporter was having an inappropriate sexual relationship with one of his sources for the story.

The paper revealed, “Times editors learned from the author of the articles, staff writer Jason Felch, that he had engaged in an inappropriate relationship with someone who was a source for the Dec. 7 story and others Felch had written about Occidental’s handling of sexual assault allegations. Felch acknowledged that after the relationship ended, he continued to use the person as a source for future articles.”

Felch ended up being fired for that inappropriate relationship. Top editor Davan Maharaj said Felch had perpetrated “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 concluded.

“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 in a statement released after he was fired.

The college has yet to release any official statements on these latest developments.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at igcolonel@hotmail.com.


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