There is no mistaking the fact that the public has had a growing negative view of the practice of journalism with the passing years. Who could blame them? With Rolling Stone reporting false facts about potential rape victims, how are they supposed to trust what they read? If reporters fall to the level of incompetence that Sabrina Erdely has and fail to check the facts, we should expect stories like this to be unfounded and unreliable pieces to read.
In its opening line, the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics notes that “Ethical journalism should be accurate and fair. Journalists should be honest and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information. Journalists should take responsibility for the accuracy of their work. Verify information before releasing it. Use original sources whenever possible.” It is fair to say the Erdely has done everything except follow this opening statement of code. She has let situational bias cloud her judgement to an extreme extent, motivating her to publish a piece that is not even remotely accurate or fair.
To further underline this, Phi Kappa Psi released a counter statement to the Washington Post, noting, with factual evidence, that “it did not host ‘a date function or social event’ during the weekend of Sept. 28, 2012, when Jackie alleges that she was invited to a date party…and gang-raped by seven men who were ‘rushing’ the fraternity.” They go on to claim that “the fraternity…reviewed the roster of employees at the university’s Aquatic and Fitness Center for 2012 and found that it does not include a member of the fraternity — a detail Jackie provided in her account to Rolling Stone and in interviews with The Post…”
The most sickening aspect, in my opinion, is that Erdely will not suffer any obvious punishment for her actions. In a report from the New York Times, Jann Wenner, publisher for Rolling Stone, acknowledges “that Ms. Erdely would continue to write for the magazine.” This shows that reporters can get away with incredible acts of injustice like this, and further leads our profession down the sleazy slope away from reporting the truth.
SPJ Code of Ethics: http://www.spj.org/pdf/spj-code-of-ethics.pdf
The Washington Post: Key elements of Rolling Stone’s U-Va. gang rape allegations in doubt: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/u-va-fraternity-to-rebut-claims-of-gang-rape-in-rolling-stone/2014/12/05/5fa5f7d2-7c91-11e4-84d4-7c896b90abdc_story.html
The New York Times: Rolling Stone Article on Rape at University of Virginia Failed All Basics, Report says: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/06/business/media/rolling-stone-retracts-article-on-rape-at-university-of-virginia.html