By Lynn R. Mitchell
Journalist Bernie Goldberg asks some pertinent questions about the Rolling Stone rape story directed at the University of Virginia (see What the media left out of the phony Rolling Stone story). This is the story that Rolling Stone has just shrugged off even after the damning report from Columbia School of Journalism that revealed just about every rule in journalism was broken in the pursuit of a sensationalistic story concerning UVa:
The Rolling Stone story about a student named Jackie who said she was ganged raped at a fraternity house at the University of Virginia is a textbook example of journalistic malpractice. Rolling Stone got just about everything wrong. For openers, there was no gang rape. The reporter didn’t even try to talk to the alleged rapists. And now, a review of the botched story by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism concludes that Rolling Stone failed to engage in “basic, even routine journalistic practice.”
And Goldberg’s disbelief is that Rolling Stone seems to have completely overlooked the fact that an entire campus was roiled at a time when they were already in shock over the kidnapping and murder of Hannah Graham. A fraternity was targeted and slandered … at least one student of a well-known political father was publicly humiliated by a Richmond blogger and others. Everyone was under the microscope. As Goldberg wrote:
But something has been missing from the stories I’ve seen. We know that Jackie made the whole thing up. So shouldn’t there be outrage over the pain and suffering she caused? Incredibly, the editor of the article, Sean Woods says Rolling Stone was unfair – to Jackie.
“Ultimately, we were too deferential to our rape victim,” Woods told the Columbia University investigators.
Rape victim? Who’s he talking about? Jackie lied, remember?
Then he said, “We honored too many of her requests in our reporting. We should have been much tougher, and in not doing that, we maybe did her a disservice.” (Emphasis added)
So Rolling Stone believes it did Jackie a disservice — and not that Jackie did a lot of innocent people a disservice? Is this a joke?
And when a reporter asked a Columbia University professor who helped write the report if Rolling Stone’s publisher was on to something when he said part of the blame lies with Jackie, the professor responded: “We don’t believe that in this case Jackie was to blame.”
I don’t understand how “Jackie” could refuse to answer questions from the police department about the alleged “rape” that she told to Rolling Stone. If it’s a false report, wouldn’t she be culpable?
Journalists who are rightly bashing Rolling Stone apparently don’t want to discuss the role of political correctness in all of this. Liberal journalists and academics don’t want to put a supposed victim of rape in the crosshairs even when she’s not really a victim of rape.
Jackie isn’t talking. She didn’t cooperate with Columbia University or the police who investigated her story. She’s the elephant in the room and just about everybody in the world of journalism is making believe Rolling Stone is the one and only villain.
Where are the editorials demanding that she be expelled from school? If she broke the law, shouldn’t she be prosecuted? There’s talk that while the gang rape never occurred something else might have happened to Jackie. Yes, and maybe nothing else has happened to Jackie. She is a liar, after all. She’s not entitled to any befits of any doubts.
In a statement responding to the Columbia report, University of Virginia’s president Teresa Sullivan described the Rolling Stone article as irresponsible journalism that “unjustly damaged the reputations of many innocent individuals and the University of Virginia.”
Shame on her too. Not a word from the president about how Jackie damaged the reputations of many innocent individuals and the University of Virginia.
Not a word.
The fraternity that was so badly slandered is suing Rolling Stone, rightfully so. Where does everyone go to get their reputations back? And let’s not forget that Rolling Stone has not fired anyone over this entire pathetic episode. The reporter who got it so wrong has a free pass to again write for Rolling Stone. It smacks of yellow journalism at its worst.
Excellent questions and good piece by Goldberg.
See also Rolling Stone’s mea culpa, such as it is, and the full, scathing Columbia University report (‘A rape on Campus’ – What went wrong? Rolling Stone and UVa: The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism Report: The anatomy of a journalistic failure).