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Rolling Stone’s ‘A Rape on Campus’

by on December 5, 2014

For anyone who read, “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA,” Rolling Stone has just apologized for the untruthfulness of the story. “Jackie” told Sabrina Rubin Erdely, an investigative reporter, about a brutal attack she said took place inside of a fraternity house at the University of Virginia. In a note published today, managing editor Will Dana writes, “Because of the sensitive nature of Jackie’s story, we decided to honor her request not to contact the man she claimed orchestrated the attack on her nor any of the men she claimed participated in the attack for fear of retaliation against her.” Dana explains, “there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account.” While there are some truths in the article, much of what the story is based on now appears to be falsified.

It came as a shock to me that a story of such length and detail was not fact-checked properly, and it also raises questions about anonymous sources. Most importantly, however, I think this occurrence is a huge setback for the nationwide struggle to combat sexual assault on college campuses. How are we supposed to report these stories in a way that both gains the trust of the public and sparks a conversation about the epidemic? Paired with Jameis Winston’s statement yesterday, there are many questions to be raised about how we should report on campus rape. Who are we to believe? Do we trust anonymous sources?

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2 Comments
  1. I completely agree. Its hard to believe a story like this went to print without being fact checked, scrutinized and having every angle covered. They could have used Jackie’s account as their story, but they needed to reach out to her alleged attackers for a comment. If they had, all of these errors could have been cleared up before the story went to print and the story would have been that much stronger. Instead, we now have something that is going to set back how we talk about sexual assault and rape culture on campuses.

  2. alindsay579 permalink

    Fact checking is by far the most basic tools that a journalist must use in order to confirm the veracity of a story. Rookie mistakes such as this, especially for a story of a high caliber, should never be made. Not only could this affect how people view this case, but it can make others wary for how sexual assaults are reported on campuses. Regardless of who wins this case, the fact that the Rolling Stones botched their article due to a lack of competency in fact checking could seriously hurt the fight to report sexual assaults and rapes on college campuses.

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