Rolling Stone's UVa Rape Story Is Shaky Journalism

Washington Post media critic complains of 'flimsiness'
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 3, 2014 1:12 PM CST
Rolling Stone 's UVa Rape Story Is Shaky Journalism
Protesters carry signs and chant slogans in front of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at the University of Virginia on Nov. 22.   (AP Photo/The Daily Progress, Ryan M. Kelly)

A Rolling Stone article about a gang rape at the University of Virginia has led the school to suspend all frats and the police to investigate. But now a drumbeat of criticism is emerging about the article itself, mainly because reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely didn't talk to the alleged perpetrators, didn't name witnesses, and based the account of the rape solely on interviews with the alleged victim, a student identified only as Jackie. "For the sake of Rolling Stone’s reputation, Sabrina Rubin Erdely had better be the country’s greatest judge of character," writes media critic Erik Wemple at the Washington Post. Given the accusations, Erdely and the magazine should have worked harder to talk to the accused, he writes. "This lapse is inexcusable."

Another criticism comes from former George editor Richard Bradley, who was once duped by the fabrications of writer Stephen Glass, at the Shots in the Dark blog. “This story contains a lot of apocryphal tropes,” he writes, asserting that it plays to "pre-existing biases" about frat life and our "nightmares." Rolling Stone and Erdely, meanwhile, are standing by the story. “I am convinced that it could not have been done any other way, or any better,” she tells the New York Times. “I am also not interested in diverting the conversation away from the point of the piece itself.” That point, she says, is that university did not aggressively pursue the allegations when Jackie first reported them because of what she called a "culture of rape." (Click to read Wemple's full critique.)

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