From Gabrielle Moss at Bustle:

As I read the piece, I felt that Erdley and Rolling Stone’s many lapses in judgment and the bad calls they made while reporting the piece didn’t come from laziness, egotism, or ignorance — they came from the magazine’s efforts to be sensitive to the alleged victim. And that really is something we could use more of.


And yet, despite these steps forward, rape coverage that attempts to give equal weight to the stories of the accuser and the accused often stumble, because proving the victim’s account using traditional journalistic fact-checking techniques is so difficult, and frequently ends up placing blame on the victim. I believe that Rolling Stone was attempting to fight this tendency in their approach to the UVA rape story — and, unfortunately, their failure on this front will probably serve as a serious setback for sensitive journalistic coverage of rape.


The decision to use a pseudonym for victim Jackie’s alleged attacker, rather than pursue an interview with him, or the failure to reach out to the friends that Jackie said had turned their backs to her, may come off as eye-popping journalistic failures — but I believe that these moves were made in an attempt to try to develop a new form of rape coverage, one that didn’t act as if the alleged attacker’s word carried as much weight as the victim’s.


Erdley veered too far in the other direction in her decision to not confirm Jackie’s attacker’s existence; but how do we develop journalistic standards for covering rape that don’t inherently retraumatize the victim?

In other words, we journalists need a "new form of rape coverage" in which "the alleged attacker's word" doesn't carry "as much weight as the victim's."

That way, we'll always believe every word the "victim" says about her alleged rape, and we don't even have to bother to track down the accused rapist's–because his "word" simply doesn't count much anyway.

So, if those are supposed to be the standards for the "new form of rape coverage," what exactly did Sabrina Rubin Erdely do wrong? Shouldn't the Columbia J-School be handing Erdely a medal instead of concluding that her reporting on the alleged UVA rape had "failed all [the] basics," according to a New York Times headline?

And Rolling Stone seems to agree–as no heads are rolling off the magazine's masthead. As NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen notes in his blog:

This is an amazing passage:

Rolling Stone’s senior editors are unanimous in the belief that the story’s failure does not require them to change their editorial systems. “It’s not like I think we need to overhaul our process, and I don’t think we need to necessarily institute a lot of new ways of doing things,” Dana said. “We just have to do what we’ve always done and just make sure we don’t make this mistake again.” Coco McPherson, the fact-checking chief, said, “I one hundred percent do not think that the policies that we have in place failed. I think decisions were made around those because of the subject matter.”

It’s amazing because it leaves Rolling Stone editors with a tautological explanation. How could we have screwed up so badly? Because this time we screwed up really badly. The way to prevent another mistake like this is to make sure we don’t make this mistake again. A remarkable conclusion, considering the stakes.

So I'm waiting with bated breath for Sabrina Erdely's next rape story for Rolling Stone. She's probably working on it right now–why not?