Los Angeles Times Fires Reporter After Errors, ‘Inappropriate Relationship’ With Source

Los Angeles Times Fires Reporter After Errors, 'Inappropriate Relationship' With Source

Felch Photo: His Book's Website

Jason Felch is an award-winning investigative reporter

The Los Angeles Times has fired award-winning investigative reporter Jason Felch after he admitted to an “inappropriate relationship with a confidential source” for a series of stories about Occidental College.

The Times issued an editor's note Friday to apologize for an error in Felch's front-page story from Dec. 7, which was reiterated in subsequent stories. Felch alleged Occidental had failed to disclose 27 incidents of sexual assault as mandated by the Clery Act. The school did not contest reports it failed to disclose certain incidents, simply that Felch had exaggerated the number. Some of the incidents were sexual harassment rather than assault.

After the Times began looking into Occidental College's complaint, Felch acknowledged his indiscretion with a source, prompting his dismissal. Los Angeles Times editor Davan Maharaj said the relationship was “a professional lapse of the kind that no news organization can tolerate.”

Also read: Los Angeles Times Rejected Dylan Farrow's Op-Ed Prior to Publication On Kristof's NYT Blog (Exclusive)

Felch has not replied to TheWrap's request for comment, but he sent a long letter to the Associated Press about the situation.

“In late December, I began an inappropriate relationship with a confidential source that lasted several weeks,” Felch wrote. “When the relationship began, I stopped relying upon the person as a source. None of the subsequent articles published in the LA Times relied upon that person.”

Felch said he was fired “for creating the appearance of a conflict of interest” and that he accepts “full responsibility” for what he did. Felch, an investigative reporter who has written about arms trafficking and money laundering, is the co-author of “Chasing Aphrodite,” a book about looting in the art world.

  • Priorities

    So he slept with someone, who cares? I'm more interested in why so many sexual harassment/assault cases where swept under the rug!

    • karma

      They weren't. Read the Times correction. Felch (and presumably his source/someone he slept with) didn't understand how the reporting law works, they saw what they wanted to see in the data, and they got the facts wrong.

      • NameName

        No, they didn't get the facts wrong. Occidental didn't contest its failure to disclose sexual assault cases, they just claim it was a lower number.

        If only the school demanded the same moral standards of itself as it demands of this reporter.

        Irrespective of the “inappropriate relationship,” the reporter's work in revealing this wrong should not be minimized.

        • karma

          They most certainly did get the facts wrong, which is why the Times posted the Editor's Note. They don't do that when their facts are correct. Of the 27 “undisclosed” cases cited in the article, all of them were accounted for, either because they didn't meet the legal requirement or because they were disclosed in 2011. This is completely clear in the Times correction, unless you, like Mr. Felch, are only seeing what you want to see. And it appears to have been the L.A. Times that demanded the moral standards, not Occidental College.

          • NameName

            “The school did not contest reports it failed to disclose certain incidents, simply that Felch had exaggerated the number.”

            Also, personal attacks are always a red flag for a weak position, “karma”

          • karma

            No, willful ignorance is always a red flag for a weak position. It's clear that before Felch got involved with this issue, the college had already acknowledged that it had not met reporting requirements. His only “contribution” to the ongoing coverage of this issue was his claim to have uncovered an additional 27 unreported cases. And as his editors discovered, he was wrong. And then they learned that he'd been sleeping with a source, which was an idiotic move by both Felch and the source, and they fired him.

            I have the greatest sympathy and respect for anyone who is victimized and refuses to accept being ignored or marginalized by an institution that's supposed to be on his or her side. It looks as if Occidental College blew it big time, and it also looks as if they've acknowledged that they blew it. But Jason Felch and his overeager “source” also blew it big time, and to pretend otherwise doesn't help your cause.

  • Vino

    Then there was Judith Miller (NYT) and her “source” for WMD….