Rolling Stone Owes Readers, Jackie, and Survivors Everywhere an Explanation

They threw their source under a bus. Then they had second thoughts. Now what?

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Three weeks after a bombshell Rolling Stone feature that described a brutal gang rape that it indicated was part of a University of Virginia fraternity’s initiation rites, the magazine—which has been under fire as other news outlets, notably the Washington Post, found discrepancies in the account of the victim, identified as Jackie—suddenly seemed to retract its story. In a statement, Rolling Stone said that it had “come to the conclusion that our trust in [Jackie] was misplaced.” Rolling Stone has since walked back that statement—and the Post story that may have prompted it to turn so brutally on its source also seems to have changed in a few key spots. In neither case were readers informed that the text had been altered.

I, uh, have some issues with all of this, particularly about the effect the rush to reporting/retraction may have not just on Jackie’s welfare (though assuredly that), but on that of other sexual assault survivors to date and yet to come. What follows is a collection of tweets on this story. Many of them lead to threads well worth following.

As these statistics show, making up rape is very rare. Whatever the verdict on the Rolling Stone piece ends up being, what has transpired is a reminder how careful we journalists need to be, especially with a story that’s so explosive.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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