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Journalism Fail

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Rolling Stone journalist admits ‘I did not go far enough’ to verify the story

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The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism released a tragic report of media malpractice Sunday in relation to a Rolling Stone article about a brutal gang rape at the University of Virginia, which forced the magazine to retract the article.

Jann S. Wenner, publisher of Rolling Stone, however, said the faulty article “represented an isolated and unusual episode,” and writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely will continue to write for the magazine.

Erdely released this statement Monday:

“Over my 20 years of working as an investigative journalist — including at Rolling Stone, a magazine I grew up loving and am honored to work for — I have often dealt with sensitive topics and sources. In writing each of these stories I must weigh my compassion against my journalistic duty to find the truth. However, in 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.

“Reporting on rape has unique challenges, but the journalist still has the responsibility to get it right. I hope that my mistakes in reporting this story do not silence the voices of victims that need to be heard.”

However, in 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.”

— Sabrina Rubin

There are several issues with the magazine’s disaster, but none shock as much as its general lack of reaction after being discredited.

According to CNN, the report garnered more than 2.7 million hits—more than any non-celebrity piece by the magazine. So many views inspired protests from the UVA fraternity and various other institutions questioning Erdley’s allegations.

Regardless of the massive consumption and dissection of the piece, Rolling Stone made no move to take corrective action. Erdley kept her job for the foreseeable future, and publishers and editors have no plans to make any changes to the magazine’s way of operating.

“We just have to do what we’ve always done and just make sure we don’t make this mistake again,” said managing editor Will Dana.

The magazine staff refuses to acknowledge the fact that without change in its system, the same mistakes will happen again.

Though the reporter is mostly to blame for the initial story, blame truly rests on the shoulders of those who made the decision to publish the faulty piece.

So from the humble editors of a student newspaper at a small university in West Virginia to the editors at large of Rolling Stone, your inability to produce accurate investigations, and moreover your inability to appropriately deal with your mistakes are a disgrace to the institution of news media. And we hope, for the sake of journalism, you learn from your mistakes.

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