How much damage did Rolling Stone do?

April 10, 2015







Brian Wilson must sympathize with Rolling Stone.


This week, Columbia University released its findings about Rolling Stone’s report of a gang rape at a University of Virginia frat house.


They found the magazine failed in nearly every aspect of the journalistic process, and Rolling Stone has since retracted the story.


Firstly, Rolling Stone should be ashamed for what they published, not only because it confirmed the distrust a large majority of Americans have for “mainstream” news, but because it gave more fodder to the deluded “Men’s Rights Activists” claiming that false rape accusations are a problem nearly as widespread as actual rape.


Charles M. Blow discussed this in his New York Times column “Did Rolling Stone Hurt the Quest for Justice?”


Many reporters and commentators are taking this as evidence the problem of campus rape is not as widespread as reported.


They are distorting the narrative.


While, yes, the false claims this woman gave were very harmful to both the accused fraternity members and the feminist movement as a whole, they do not preclude the careful consideration of the campus sexual assault problem.


The FBI’s last reported percentage of rape reports that were falsified put the number at 8 percent, which reportedly did not count cases of rape where the victim did not fight back or the perpetrator did not use a weapon or physical force.


So, in other words, the percentage is much, much lower.


“Jackie,” the pseudonym of the once-alleged victim, has apologized for her role in this, and Rolling Stone has been up front about their massive and numerous mistakes.


Which, let’s be honest here, what else could they do?


There is an immense pressure among news-gathering organizations to publish things that grab the eye, that get people to put down their cup of coffee and devote their entire interest to the paper.


“Campus rape shocker” reads a lot better than “school board votes on new desks,” doesn’t it?


It is perhaps understandable that Rolling Stone was so excited about this story, but it doesn’t excuse their running it.


The public is already a fickle beast, turning from traditional, informative news to buzzfeed-type articles, so why would they risk pushing them even farther away?


I have never been a big fan of the magazine, but I won’t even consider it now.


John Sadler is a junior journalism and English major from Extension who serves as editor for The Tech Talk.  E-mail comments to jts040@latech.edu.


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