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September 22, 2014

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L.A. Times fires reporter, admits error in 3 stories

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Times dismissed an investigative reporter Friday after discovering he had an inappropriate relationship with someone who was a source for a front-page story that the newspaper says contained an error.

Times Editor Davan Maharaj said Jason Felch's relationship with a source and his failure to disclose the relationship constituted "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," he said.

An editor's note that appeared on the newspaper's website did not identify the source.

Felch said in a statement that the story was published weeks before the relationship began, and that he stopped relying upon the person as a source during the relationship. He believed he 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," Felch said.

Felch's Dec. 7 article said Occidental College didn't disclose 27 alleged sex assaults in 2012, as it should have under a federal law requiring campuses to publish serious crime reports on or near campus. The Times said a review found that the incidents did not meet the law's disclosure requirements for a variety of reasons.

The error was repeated in two subsequent stories, the Times said.

Felch said his article was based on a confidential complaint now being investigated by federal authorities and that the allegation was supported by other documents and interviews.

In 2006, he and former Times reporter Ralph Frammolino were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting for exposing the role of the J. Paul Getty Museum and other American museums in the black market for looted antiquities.

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