Discussion: Columbia Report Finds Rolling Stone UVA Rape Piece A 'Journalistic Failure'

Discussion for article #235042

The bizarre part is having this trumpeted on p.1 of The Times today.

At least the fraternity doesn’t have a GoFundMe page.

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Rolling Stone editor Will Dana told PBS no heads will roll because he does not want this story to “define” the reporters and editors involved. So no guarantees that something like this won’t happen again. Sheesh.

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Rolling Stone doesn’t get it.

(and by “it” I mean journalism)

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a scatter shot blast of poxes on the house of Rolling Stone & the original author.

a genuine issue gets side-tracked by sloppy / unprofessional work

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Yet.

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Every time I see the words “Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner,” I find myself saying “Jesus, is he still alive?” And so good to see him keeping it classy by blaming Jackie while claiming he isn’t.

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“[I]n the case of Jackie and her account of her traumatic rape, I did not go far enough to verify her story. I allowed my concern for Jackie’s well-being, my fear of re-traumatizing her, and my confidence in her credibility to take the place of more questioning and more facts. These are mistakes I will not make again,” she said.

This fits with earlier reporting by Slate and Washington Post. Jackie apparently played the reporter, and threatened to cut her off when she pressed for details and contacts. The reporter, afraid to upset her and also lose her big story, backed down and didn’t corroborate anything. If a source is very adamant you not contact any of the relevant people in a story – that’s a huge red flag they aren’t trustworthy. But it’s one thing for a reporter to get duped. It’s another for this flimflam to get past editors and fact checkers. Huge fail by Rolling Stone at every level.

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The problem with her whole story was how ridiculous it was. They made it such a central part of the story because of how outrageous the attack was, but that was all the more reason to make sure it was true, because it was so outrageous.

I mean, if this was just a story of date rape or a drunk girl being abused while passed out, it wouldn’t have been sensational enough for the story. But when a girl is tricked by her date into becoming part of a pledge-ritual gang rape where the frat pledges are required to rape and beat a girl for hours, that’s a big story. And it’s also ridiculous and really should have been vetted more than if it was a more standard claim.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, which is why they really should have insisted on having some sort of corroboration for it. It’s understandable why the typical date rape victim might not report it to police. But when you’re supposedly bleeding and beaten yet refuse any sort of medical assistance…that’s a bit unlikely. So while I understand why it’s harsh to doubt a victim, in this case, they really should have had their doubts.