Rolling Stone UVA Story Is Epic Failure For Journalism And Rape Victims

Rolling Stone UVA Story Is Epic Failure For Journalism And Rape Victims

On Friday it was reported here at Victory Girls and around the world that Rolling Stone magazine issued a retraction of sorts on the “A Rape on Campus” story written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely. Why was it only sort of a retraction? When you take a closer look, readers will realize that Rolling Stone made it clear in their statement that neither the magazine nor Erdely are to blame for the story being wrong. Perhaps they are hoping the story will go away.


Well guess what, this story and their role in it isn’t going away. Rolling Stone and Sabrina Erdely have served up two epic failures with one stroke of the pen. The first failure is their disregard for one of the all important tenants of good factual journalism. TRUST BUT VERIFY. Instead Erdely and Rolling Stone decided to run a sensational rather than fact-based story. However, due to in-depth reporting by T. Rees Shapiro and Erik Wemple of the Washington Post and others, it is becoming clear that the facts of the case are nearly if not completely different from the account written in Rolling Stone. Erik Wemple writes:

“For the sake of Rolling Stone’s reputation, Sabrina Rubin Erdely had better be the country’s greatest judge of character.”


Sabrina had an agenda and the veracity of Jackie’s account didn’t matter. Differences in Jackie’s story includes identifying the wrong man, changing certain circumstances of her story, not reporting the attack because friends might lose party privileges at the fraternity, and having advocates start doubting all she described. Furthermore, Shapiro writes:

Jackie’s story empowered many women to speak publicly about attacks on them, but it also immediately raised questions about the decisions Jackie made that evening — not going to a hospital or reporting the alleged crime to police or the school — while some expressed doubt about her story altogether.

The above are questions ANY journalist worth his or her salt should’ve asked before determining if this was a story worth pursuing. If Jackie had suffered the injuries she described, why isn’t there a medical report? Why didn’t she report this to the campus or the local police? Why didn’t her friends or the campus advocates report this to the university? Why didn’t Erdely ask those questions? Why didn’t Rolling Stone ask Erdely about it? I can tell you why. Because Sabrina didn’t care to truly examine Jackie’s character or veracity, and Rolling Stone decided that sensational garbage was better than the facts.

For many, a story like this is horrific because those who see the headlines and steel themselves to read the article are themselves survivors of rape. Those rape survivors had the courage to report their attack, suffer through the medical exams, identify the rapist, and then face their attacker in court. What will garbage stories like this cause for other potential rape victims? What will they face now?

Its true that some of Erdely’s story might hold up under more scrutiny. But then again, given the current circumstances we are left doubting the story that was written.  Rape cases are incredibly tough, so tough that it is well-known in law enforcement and legal circles that rape cases are among the most difficult to investigate or prosecute. Olga Khazan at The Atlantic tells us:

Rape stories, meanwhile, are a genre that’s uniquely unforgiving of inaccuracies. Universities and fraternities could use an inconsistent story as an excuse to move on to other issues and to downplay their assault problems. Anti-feminists brandish wrongful accusations in order to claim that “most” rape victims are liars. Victims, meanwhile, become even more skittish, understandably wishing to spare themselves the same scrutiny and persecution. The overwhelming majority of rapes are never reported, in part because many victims fear they won’t be believed.

We should consider that Jackie may have indeed been raped.  If that fact is true, one would hope that she continues to get the help she needs to triumph over tragedy.  However, at this time all we are left with is doubting the veracity of her account.  And that is incredibly problematic for other rape victims. Megan McArdle of Bloomberg writes:

So now the next time a rape victim tells her story to a journalist, they will both be trying to reach an audience that remembers the problems with this article, and the Duke lacrosse case, and wonders if any of these stories are ever true. That inference will be grotesquely false, but it is the predictable result of accepting sensational stories without carefully checking. The greatest damage this article has done is not to journalism, or even to Rolling Stone. It is to the righteous fight for rape victims everywhere.

In fact, if any woman is raped given the traction this story had and still has, why on earth would she want to report her attack and work to bring her attacker to justice?  McArdle is correct, the ability for current and future rape victims to tell their story and be believed has taken a hit that will have long-term repercussions we can’t begin to fathom.

The credibility of journalism due to the malfeasance of Rolling Stone and Sabrina Rubin Erdely and those who idiotically champion their lazy garbage reporting is in doubt now more than ever.  Jackie’s story with all its inconsistencies combined with the fact that Erdely didn’t want to or care to do her homework on the entire story has put rape victims at risk.  This so-called reporting of a very real serious issue women face isn’t journalism, its trash.

What we are dealing with now is a reporter who has stampeded over true rape victims in search of just the “right” story, and a magazine who abdicated its basic journalistic responsibility of ensuring facts were checked six ways to Sunday. They decided to run with one side of a story rather than pointing out the inconsistencies of that story. The end result is the epic failure of Erdely’s journalistic credibility, Rolling Stone’s reputation has taken a massive hit, Jackie’s story is in serious doubt, and rape victims have one more giant hurdle to deal with. Why? Because trash triumphed over journalism.

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  • Merle says:

    Today’s so called journalists seldom check their facts, so why is this a surprise? After all, the facts might get in the way if their agenda.


  • SamIowa says:

    Liberal reporters are not ‘reporters’. They are agenda driven cheerleaders.

    She just got caught.

    Other lies: Global warming, non radicalized Muslims, war on women, etc.

    Rolling Stone is a pathetic piece of crap, not even fit to line the bird cage since they went to the slick paper.

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