the first rule in the society of professional journalists’ code of ethics is “do no harm.” yes, rolling stone is guilty of shoddy editing of the uva rape story. but they are guilty of an even worse crime: they blamed the victim. and the point of the story was to illustrate how the victims of rape are shamed and shunned into silence by the university and the wide culture. and now they have brought down the entire court of public opinion on her as they scramble to cover their own asses. they have done her irreparable harm.
the washington post is being praised for its week of reporting that surfaced the holes in the story and the lapses in fairness and balance in rolling stone’s journalism about contacting the accused and checking the facts and their selection of the narrative subject and setting. they too have shamed and shunned the victim. they have done her irreparable harm.
these are both established, legacy journalism brands with powerful reputations and records for courageous journalism and also innovation in the digital age. the linked article is from vox – a new journalism startup – not only different because they understand the technology of digital news, but also understand how the digital space is also a digital culture. the ethics of the practice of writing and reporting have changed, grown and evolved. what old journalism knows as the view from nowhere, robotic objectivity, the unjust application of balance and fairness, the traditional lens of a culture built on white male power has all changed. it isn’t just print and pixels – it is people.
vox alone offers this _absolutely critically_ important detail that the post’s reporting has missed:
victims of violent trauma suffer cognitive blocks as their minds deal with the events. they mix up details of their stories.
they frequently don’t remember the names or faces of their assailants. they tell themselves lies to cope. reality is absolutely bent. and there is a massive compendium of research and knowledge on this and hundreds of easily available credible sources who could have provided quotes that should have been placed right in context with the attacks on the credibility of the victim – because it would have been fair and accurate.
truth and fact often collide, this has happened in journalism before. it happens all the time. chinese labor abuses _are_ massive, but mike daisy and this american life botched it. bush _was_ awol, but dan rather and cbs botched it. they all got off on technicalities. the post once gave back a pulitizer over a fictionalized account of a heroin addicted child.
rapes in fraternities are real. jackie was raped. there is no doubt she was horribly assaulted. and now she is being called a liar by rolling stone and the post and it is echoing through the entire mainstream media and their audiences – the entire culture that reinforces that power structure that is rooted in the sexual dimorphism of our animalistic origins. this is not a crime of journalism, it is the absolute shame of society.
it is incredibly important to note that the editors of rolling stone and the washington post are men, and the post reporter who debunked the female reporter’s story is also a man. while the mission of journalism is to speak truth to power, in this day and age of media layoffs and carnage, very few of us will level a blast at the men in media power who give jobs to media folk.
vox’s co-editor is melissa bell.
the post should not stop here with their tear down job and rest on their laurels that sound local reporting and old school shoe leather rule. no one in the media should. there is much, much more to this story. because the facts may be messed up, dates and names and faces and strange greek letters may be confused, but the truth is real – horribly real. a girl was raped, she stopped the silence and came forward to tell her story – the one she remembers – and now she is being raped again and shamed. the next chapter of this story will most likely be her attempted suicide, as we saw in stuebenville and in so many other cases. and if she is successful, her blood will be on all of our hands.