In November, Rolling Stone published an article investigating rape at the University of Virginia’s fraternities under the title “A Rape on Campus.” It was written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely. The article catalogs allegations leveled by a woman pseudonymed under the name “Jackie” involving her time at the University of Virginia (UVA) where, she claimed, several members of a UVA fraternity gang raped her during her Freshman year. She went on to claim that once she reported the assault to UVA officials they did nothing to help her. The allegations resulted in UVA shutting down all their fraternities and launching a full investigation.
On Wednesday of this week, I mentioned in my daily news round up that a number of journalists questioned why reporter Sabrina Erdely hadn’t sought out the alleged perpetrators of the attack for comment. In an interview with Slate, Erdely stated that she felt “Jackie” was credible and respected her desire for Erdely not to contact the alleged rapists.
Now it turns out “Jackie” may have been lying. From Rolling Stone, today:
In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced. We were trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault and now regret the decision to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account. We are taking this seriously and apologize to anyone who was affected by the story.
Rolling Stone reporter Sabrina Erdely will take the blunt force trauma of criticism for this journalistic oversight (an actual ethics in journalism question) but it’s the Rolling Stone editorial staff that needs to take a look in the mirror.
It’s a journalists job to ask hard questions and verify facts, that’s literally a journalist’s only job, and skipping over the legwork to try and break open a story is unethical whether it’s out of an abundance of empathy or not.