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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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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