LA Times Admits Error in Three Stories, Fires Reporter

An LA Times reporter was fired for an inappropriate relationship with a source and three stories about sexual assault at Occidental College had to be corrected after the paper discovered a major error.

Times reporter Jason Felch published a story in December about 27 on-campus sexual assaults that ran on the front page of the paper. The story alleged Occidental had failed to disclose the 2012 incidents in accordance with the Clery Act, which governs campus police departments. That allegation was included in two subsequent stories.

In a correction issued late Friday afternoon, the Times admitted the story was flawed, explaining that a review of documents revealed that none of the incidents required disclosure under the Clery Act.

Some were not sexual assaults as defined by the Clery Act. 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.

In the same release, the paper also announced that it fired Felch, who had carried on an "inappropriate relationship" with a source.

Separately, as they began looking into the complaint, 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.

The paper began investigating the story after Occidental asked for a retraction.

Interestingly, a senior LA executive at GF Bunting—the crisis communications firm Occidental hired to deal with the story—has substantial connections to Felch and the LA Times.

Before GF Bunting, Ralph Frammolino was a Times reporter for 25 years and co-wrote a book with Felch that nearly won them both Pulitzers.

After the correction ran, Felch issued a statement saying the relationship began weeks after the story was published.

Weeks ago, I voluntarily disclosed the relationship to my editors and cooperated with their investigation. On Friday, I was fired for creating the appearance of a conflict of interest. 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.

[image via AP]