I can very vividly remember when ‘A Rape on Campus’ was published by Rolling Stone. It was a heartbreaking read on what can go wrong when you’re raped on a college campus. When I read it, I found myself feeling sympathetic for the victim and frightened for others who might have faced her same fate. But then, the story changed, the details became fuzzy and the story fell apart.
If you haven’t read ‘A Rape on Campus,’ you may be out of luck. I tried to find the original article online and wasn’t able to (I might also be too tired to do any thorough digging.) What it’s replaced with now is a report, ‘Rolling Stone and UVA: The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism Report.’
If you have any interest in journalism or journalistic integrity, it’s a fascinating read that basically boils down to this: the writer of ‘A Rape on Campus’ invested too much trust in to her lone source. Had Sabrina Erdely pushed Jackie to confirm the details of her story, Erdely likely would have found out that Jackie’s story had quite a few holes. Instead, Erdely took her word for the whole narrative and ran with it. While this was a mistake that began with Erdely’s journalism practices, it didn’t end there. Her editors never pushed her to address the holes in Jackie’s story, to reach out to additional sources or to confront other possible witnesses.
Rolling Stone seems to have been rather swift in cleaning up their mess with the release of the outside report. Now, while it’s easy to put in to question their journalistic practices and code of ethics, it’s also easy to understand how they ended up in this debacle. As of this time, Sabrina Erdely will not be fired and will continue to write for Rolling Stone. I only hope that she will take her future articles more seriously than this one as it has done more harm than good.