The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
The past few months, since my Rolling Stone article "A Rape on Campus" was first called into question, have been among the most painful of my life. Reading the Columbia account of the mistakes and misjudgments in my reporting was a brutal and humbling experience. I want to offer my deepest apologies: to Rolling Stone's readers, to my Rolling Stone editors and colleagues, to the U.V.A. community, and to any victims of sexual assault who may feel fearful as a result of my article.
Over my 20 years of working as an investigative journalist—including at Rolling Stone, a magazine I grew up loving and am honored to work for—I have often dealt with sensitive topics and sources. In writing each of these stories I must weigh my compassion against my journalistic duty to find the truth. However, in the case of Jackie and her account of her traumatic rape, I did not go far enough to verify her story. I allowed my concern for Jackie's well-being, my fear of re-traumatizing her, and my confidence in her credibility to take the place of more questioning and more facts. These are mistakes I will not make again.
Reporting on rape has unique challenges, but the journalist still has the responsibility to get it right. I hope that my mistakes in reporting this story do not silence the voices of victims that need to be heard.
But, as John Hinderaker (Powerline) points out, Erdely didn't expressly apologize to the most obvious victim of any discredited accusation: the accused. Her story accused Phi Kappa Psi fraternity members of gang rape, and obviously reflected not just on the unnamed individuals, but on the fraternity itself. It damaged the reputation of the fraternity, at least for a time, and would have damaged it still more had the flaws in the story not come out so publicly. Yet the closest she gets to apologizing to those her story accused is by apologizing "to the U.V.A. community." Not quite right, it seems to me.
Thanks to InstaPundit for the pointer.