Rolling Stone’s Rape of Decency and Journalism!
Credit: Jay Paul / Stringer
Rolling Stone magazine in a bid to remain relevant in 2014 unleashed an alleged investigative report on a stunning and violent gang rape at the University of Virginia by a group of privileged frat boys. The problem is it seems it never happened and while at first the magazine defended it’s policies it is clear today that the longtime anti social rock rag has no defense at all.
As a former investigative reporter for NBC News I can assure you I was pressured all too often to ‘go get the story’. The story that had been put on the board by enthusiastic producers with no idea what the facts on the ground actually were. Disconnected producers often had no idea what the actual story turned out to be. Instead they would demand I ‘find the story’ I was sent after no matter what. That pressure would rise dramatically as a story died in the field and the deadline came closer. I am guessing similar pressure exists at suffocating levels at a magazine trying desperately to recapture its faded glory.
Fortunately I never caved into that kind of pressure and would stand my ground on ethics and facts. I fortunately never needed to do a retraction in nearly 14 years as a professional journalist.
Rolling Stone suffered a monumental editorial failure by publishing Sabrina Erdely’s 9,000-word apparently fictional dramatization of a gang rape at the University of Virginia. We now know it was essentially based on the word of a single source and worse it seems it never even happened. One tired and very trite newsroom adage is never let the facts get in the way of a good story. Well as silly as that axiom may be, Rolling Stone took that to all new depths.
“That failure is on us—not her,” said Managing Editor Will Dana on Twitter. Sorry but that isn’t good enough. You impugned the integrity of an entire University, its fraternity system and more importantly young men attending that school.
Jackie, the name of the accuser who said she was gang-raped at a frat party in 2012 is still being shielded however. I’ll get back to that point in a moment. Rolling Stone in a brief statement said this, “We published the article with the firm belief that it was accurate. Given all of these reports, however, we have come to the conclusion that we were mistaken in honoring Jackie's request to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account. In trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault, we made a judgment – the kind of judgment reporters and editors make every day. We should have not made this agreement with Jackie and we should have worked harder to convince her that the truth would have been better served by getting the other side of the story. These mistakes are on Rolling Stone, not on Jackie.”
Well the mistakes belong not only to Rolling Stone but also it’s ‘investigative reporter’ Erdely. You see she spent months looking for just such a case to write about. She wanted the perfect scenario. She looked for it at Harvard and Yale and finally found what she wanted, a story of college gang rape to fit her agenda. In fact in another article I learned that she listed “sexual assault” as one of her areas of expertise. Maybe she was too eager. Yeah you might come to that conclusion and you’d likely be right. After all that was the conclusion I came to.
But it is the editorial board and the management of Rolling Stone that must also stand for this one and explain. How is it you never contacted on person to defend against the allegations or determine the validity.
The magazine stood to defend and protect Jackie and her apparent false allegations but what about the other reputations destroyed by the radical left wing agenda that is trying desperately to emasculate an entire generation of young men? What of the Greek system and the University of Virginia?
A local reporter on their first job would know better than to trust this story to a single source and make it an expose of sexual assault on the nations college campuses. Even such a simple detail as the fact that the fraternity in question had no parties at all on the weekend in 2012 when Jackie said she was attacked at such a party eluded Rolling Stone. You’d have to wonder if Erdely knew that. I’m betting Jackie did.
Erdely’s reporting on other stories is now in the white-hot spotlight including a 2012 article on a cluster of teen suicides in Minnesota. The premise is that the teens and pre-teens were gay or thought to be and were bullied until they killed themselves. The article attacks Evangelical Christians and former Republican Congresswoman Michelle Bachman by name even though she has no connection to the story. That seems a lot more like a political hatchet job than actual reporting from where I stand.
Now back to the issue of shielding Jackie and her apparently fabricated rape story. I am a firm believer if you knowingly accuse someone of a vicious crime and it never actually happened and you knew it, you should be subject to the same penalties. I mean if you are willing to falsely yell ‘rape’ and it didn’t happen you should forfeit your freedom. If you would accuse a former lover or spouse of sexually abusing your children in an effort to gain custody or favor with the court you should lose all privileges, period. Falsely accusing someone of such a crime should be punishable by the same penalties as the crime alleged.
Unfortunately there is no actual penalty for impersonating a journalist or a reputable news publication- except of course being driven into financial ruin. In this case for both Rolling Stone and Sabrina Erdely that will have to suffice. For Jackie, well Karma can be a real Witch and that’s what I’ll need to trust on this matter.