By Ashton Clopton
BODY: The article “A Rape On Campus” was first published by Rolling Stones Magazine on November 19, 2014. Journalist Sabrina Erdely wrote about the alleged gang rape that occurred within a fraternity at the University of Virginia.
The article covered that a first-year student had been violently gang-raped by seven men at a fraternity in 2012. A former associate dean at the university, Nicole Eramo, charged that the magazine had falsely reported on an alleged event. That article opens with a graphic scene that local police believe was fabricated. Charlottesville police chief, Timothy Longo said in a press conference, “we’re not able to conclude to any substantive degree that an incident occurred at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house, or any other fraternity house, for that matter.”
The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan “ruled that a lower court had erred in dismissing a defamation lawsuit filed by three former members of the fraternity.”
None of the men were named in the article, but the details of the article included a room set at the top of a staircase and described one perpetrator as a swimmer. These college students could be identified by other university students or those familiar within the fraternity.
IMAGE: Rolling Stone. (2014, Nov 19). “Jackie was a freshman at UVA when she was brutally
raped by seven men at a frat party. Then a new kind of abuse began” [Tweet]. Retrieved from Twitter.com/RollingStone.
CAPTION: In a tweet made out on November 19th, 2014, Rolling Stone magazine announced its new article available for readers. This particular article followed the alleged rape of a student at The University of Viginia that the Tweet names here as Jackie.
This was one of three suits filed against Rolling Stone in regards to the article. The fraternity Phi Kappa Psi filed a suit themselves and was settled by Rolling Stone for $1.65 million, and afederal jury ordered Rolling Stone and the article’s author to pay $3 million in damages to anassociate dean at the university. Rolling Stone appealed the administrator case, but settled later.
In a statement following the ruling, Rolling Stone said that they “are disappointed with the
Second Circuit’s ruling today, but are confident that this case has no merit.” In an attempt to better understand their position, Rolling Stone magazine reached out to an independent source to conduct an internal investigation.
On April 5, 2015, Rolling Stone magazine released a statement declaring that they had reached The Columbia Report specifically to investigate their shortcomings in this particular instance and named Steve Coll as the head of the operation. Coll is the Dean of the Columbia School of Journalism and a Pulitzar-Prize Winner.
Rolling Stone allowed Coll and his team to conduct the investigation and agreed to publish the report no matter what its findings entailed. The Columbia report “found that the magazine’s editing processes were woefully faulty in publishing the piece.”
Teresa A. Sullivan, the University of Virginia’s president, made a statement following the release of the report saying that the article was “irresponsible journalism” that “unjustly
damaged the reputations of many innocent individuals and the University of Virginia.”
Not only is it financially detrimental to be negligent in the reporting process, but cultural
damages take place as well. What can be learned from this case is that it is not only important to vet your sources and do extensive fact-checking on allegations, but it is also important to be careful about what you allege and who is involved. The alleged perpetrators, although proven not guilty by local officials, faced consequences of Journalist Sabrina Erdely’s actions. In order to protect herself, she should have avoided the detail building elements that gave the students away