LA Times Reporter Fired for Issues in Occidental Sexual Assault Story


In a bizarre turn of events, the Los Angles Times has fired one of their reporters for inaccurately reporting the number of Title IX violations at Occidental College and for having an inappropriate relationship with a source for that story.

In September, Occidental announced that they’d be settling with current and former students for not handling a number of sexual assault cases appropriately. In December, reporter Jason Felch filed a story that alleged that Occidental had underreported a even larger number of sexual assaults than had previously been considered; he reported that 27 incidents had occurred on their campus in 2012 that had been unaccounted for. On Friday, the LA Times announced that Felch’s story was inaccurate because those 27 new cases did not technically fall under the category of sexual assault as defined by the Clery Act:

Documents reviewed by The Times this week show that the 27 incidents did not fall under the law’s disclosure requirements for a variety of reasons. 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.

The Times became aware of the issue with the story when they were approached by Occidental for a correction, though Felch said he reached out to the college when he was working on the story and they did not respond to him. While the LA Times was reviewing the article, Felch also revealed that he had had an “inappropriate relationship” with one of his sources for the piece. He told the New York Times that the article in question came out before that relationship developed and that he didn’t use that person as a source after it. That second claim doesn’t match the statement the LA Times has put out, which reads, “Felch acknowledged that after the relationship ended, he continued to use the person as a source for future articles.”

Felch told the New York Times that he was fired for “for creating the appearance of a conflict of interest,” though he also said that he takes “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.”

According to Felch, the rest of his article holds up. The Associated Press reports that “his article was based upon a confidential complaint now being investigated by federal authorities and that the allegation was supported by other documents and interviews.” So there will likely be more on come on sexual assault at Occidental – just not from Felch.

Image via Jeffrey Beall/Flickr

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