Rolling Stone’s acknowledgement of “discrepancies” in its much-hyped and horrific story of a gang rape at the University of Virginia has journalists both young and established mulling over the state of journalism today. Brit Hume, a 23-year veteran of ABC News and now a senior political analyst at Fox News, today is naming and shaming those who uncovered the holes in Rolling Stone’s reporting and those who ignored them.
First and foremost, Hume credits a blog post by writer Richard Bradley for taking an extensive, critical look at a blanket PR statement by Rolling Stone claiming that “through our extensive reporting and fact-checking, we found Jackie to be entirely credible and courageous and we are proud to have given her disturbing story the attention it deserves.”
Here is the problem that Rolling Stone has: The magazine clearly has lost confidence that it knows what happened that night—despite the fact that it published a chillingly specific account of a gang rape. And it can not re-report the story now. What’s done is done.
Also, it wants to put the onus of responsibility on Jackie, without looking like it is discrediting her. The magazine is carefully distancing itself from its primary source, but doing so in a way that it hopes no one will notice.
Nor will Rolling Stone simply admit that it screwed up.
And so it is using carefully crafted language to frame Jackie’s story as significant whether it’s true or not; the really important thing is how the University responded to it.
Which is a morally reprehensible argument.
Also on Hume’s “good” list: The Washington Post, for following up on the story.
Coming in last: the University of Virginia’s own newspaper, which eventually got around to reporting on Rolling Stone’s “note” to its readers.
University president Teresa Sullivan: it’s your move.