Tag Archives: University of Virginia

Rolling Stone gets sued … good!

I spent my professional life in journalism. I’m a fierce advocate for publications’ rights to print the truth and more often than not I have looked skeptically at individuals or institutions that have sued publications for libel or defamation.

Not this time.

A University of Virginia administrator has sued Rolling Stone magazine for $7.5 million, contending the magazine defamed her in a bogus story about a gang rape on the campus.


I hope Nicole Eramo wins.

She is UVa’s top administrator who deals with sexual assaults. The magazine portrayed her as someone more interested in protecting the school’s reputation than in protecting a woman named “Jackie,” who alleged she was raped by students at a frat house party. Well, the party never occurred, “Jackie” wasn’t raped, Rolling Stone retracted the story — and the reporter and her editors responsible for publishing the false account still have their jobs!

“I am filing this defamation lawsuit to set the record straight — and to hold the magazine and the author of the article accountable for their actions in a way they have refused to do themselves,” Eramo said in a statement.

The retraction gives this lawsuit some traction. Publications rarely retract a story, taking back what they published and in effect admitting that it was wrong. Rolling Stone admitted the story was phony, but still haven’t disciplined the principals involved in publishing it.

Nicole Eramo’s lawsuit needs to make a statement that the magazine did something grievously wrong in its so-called “reporting” of a crime that didn’t occur.


Rolling Stone did a hatchet job

The Rolling Stone retraction of a story it published alleging a gang rape at a college frat house presents a graphic lesson in Journalism 101.

Be sure you get all sides of the story before you go to press.


The magazine is paying a huge price in its loss of credibility. And it should.

It well might pay even more — as in financially — if it loses a planned lawsuit filed by some of the principals involved in the coverage of the bogus story.

The magazine reported a woman named Jackie was raped by members of a University of Virginia fraternity. However, the magazine didn’t bother to check with Jackie’s friends, or with the fraternity members, or with others who might be able to corroborate Jackie’s story.

It turned out that on the night in question, there wasn’t even a party at the frat house.

The story broke down.

The magazine issued a retraction and an apology.

And this story now has put the media under the looking glass once again.

What still astounds me is that the reporter, her editors and the “fact checkers” still are employed by the magazine. No one has lost his or her job.

I’m scratching my head over this one. I’ve seen reporters and editors fired for less than what happened at Rolling Stone. No one bothered to check the details of Jackie’s story? No one thought to ask the reporter to talk to the fraternity members? The reporter didn’t bother to do her homework?

Where I come from, they call such so-called reporting a “hatchet job.”

To retract a story is to admit that it is false, that it is bogus, that it doesn’t stand up to the basic test of good journalism. Rolling Stone has issued its retraction.

Why hasn’t it punished the people responsible for soiling the magazine’s credibility?

Retracting a story is a huge deal

During my 37 years in print journalism, I had to write some corrections to news stories or editorials I’d written.

You get a fact wrong, you write a brief explainer of the actual fact. It usually goes into a file your editor would keep. I’ve written a clarification or two in my time. That’s when you report or commenting on an issue without using the proper context. Those, too, go into a file.

No journalist likes to write those.

A retraction? That’s a very big deal. That’s when you retract an entire story. It was bogus. False. It’s a firing offense. I’ve seen reporters lose their jobs because their files contained too many corrections or clarifications.


Rolling Stone magazine, a usually reliable journal, has retracted a story it published alleging that the University of Virginia fraternity house was the scene of a horrible rape in 2012. The magazine drew a scathing critique from the Columbia Journalism Review about how editors allowed the story to pass through various checkpoints before being published.

The writer of the bogus story, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, reportedly didn’t contact any of the alleged assailants.She acknowledges she relied too heavily on the alleged victim’s account of what happened.

One of the more astonishing elements of this story is that Erdely and the editors who worked on her story are continuing to work for Rolling Stone. She has apologized to the readers of Rolling Stone and has vowed never to make the mistakes she made while writing the article.


But can readers trust her fully again? Journalists are supposed to trade on the trust they build with their readers. That trust is built on the journalist’s ability to tell the truth, completely and fully and without a hint of doubt about the veracity of the story being told.

When a nationally known publication such as Rolling Stone retracts a story, it in effect is admitting it has inflicted a grave wound on that trust.

It’s a real big deal.


Big story takes bigger hit

Rolling Stone isn’t known as a publication that makes stories up.

Thus, the magazine editors’ announcement that they were retracting a story about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia is a very big deal.


It’s the retraction that makes the story so interesting, to me at least.

A woman named “Jackie” reported that she had been raped by several men at a fraternity house party at the UVa campus in Charlottesville. Then her credibility came into question.

Her story didn’t add up. There was no party the night she said one occurred, the magazine found out.

Then came the announcement that the magazine was taking back what it reported.

A retraction is a very big deal in journalism.

Publications issue “corrections” all the time when they get facts wrong. They issue “clarifications” when the facts aren’t printed as clearly as they should be printed. A retraction? Well, that means the publication no longer stands by the story or the reporter who wrote it … or even the line editors who edited the story, looking for holes in it or places that need to be fleshed out.

Meanwhile, a university’s reputation has been tarnished. Students stood before the nation and apologized for what they described as a “culture of rape” at UVa.

Well, it now turns out that one student at the university has exhibited a “culture of lying.”