RAPE FANTASIES: Rolling Stone Trying to Regroup from the Epic Journalism Fail on the ‘Rape’ Story

cover_web-458x620Lena Dunham is an STD to the world. #nasty

Started nearly a half-century ago as a chronicle of 1960s counterculture, Rolling Stone established its journalistic credibility with provocative coverage of politics and current affairs.

While its cover remains coveted real estate for those looking to assert their pop-culture bona fides, writers like Matt Taibbi and Michael Hastings have influenced public perceptions in recent years on issues like the financial crisis and the war in Afghanistan — in the same way that celebrated predecessors like Richard Ben Cramer and Tom Wolfe had done in previous years.

The magazine seemed to have struck again last month with a vivid account of a young woman who said she was gang-raped at a University of Virginia fraternity party, a story that helped drive the national debate over the problem of sexual assault on college campuses.

But late last week Rolling Stone found itself facing a crisis that threatened its reputation as a place for serious, significant journalism. Faced with reporting in The Washington Post that appeared to undermine crucial details of the accuser’s account, and a rebuttal of some aspects from the fraternity, the magazine published a noteto readers on Friday saying that it had reservations about the article. It also acknowledged that it had erred in relying solely on the word of the accuser, named only as Jackie, and in agreeing not to try to contact the men she accused.

“I have serious questions about what happened, and I am at this point not ready to say what happened that night,” the magazine’s managing editor, Will Dana, said in an interview Friday. “There should never be a story in Rolling Stone where I feel that way.”

With that, Rolling Stone found itself listed among a series of media crises in recent weeks, including The New Republic, where there were massresignations, and First Look Media, the start-up that lost staff members and canceled a planned website after a dispute between journalists and managers.

Rolling Stone was harshly criticized by media critics for its journalistic lapses, and by women’s groups who said it set back the cause of encouraging sexual assault victims to come forward.

Even the magazine’s apology seemed to backfire. The note to readers initially said that Rolling Stone’s trust in Jackie was “misplaced” — which some read as criticizing Jackie and undermining her story. This weekend, as it faced further criticism for that characterization, it quietly changed the note to say that it was “mistaken in honoring Jackie’s request to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account.” It also said, “These mistakes are on Rolling Stone, not on Jackie.”

This article continues on nytimes.com


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