• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


Journalistic Integrity

The Rolling Stone fiasco.


April 12, 2015

I think the Columbia School of Journalism report on Rolling Stone's UVA disaster was fair and constructive. One point I especially appreciated was the insistence on placing responsibility on Rolling Stone, rather than on the alleged victim, as the magazine had initially tried to do.

"Jackie" may indeed have perpetrated a "hoax," as some claim, to seek attention. If so, she did it in a disturbed and self-destructive way, spinning a story that could so easily have been (and in fact eventually was), fact checked, causing it to unravel and turn on her. It isn't out of the question, especially for a very young person, but we don't know.

People who have undergone serious trauma can become confused as to dates and times. They aren't lying, and they aren't "hysterical"; trauma is encoded differently in our minds from more expected events. "Jackie"'s version of events seems to diverge from reality on so many points as to render it unlikely that this is the explanation for her story, but it is something the reporter and editorial staff should have kept in mind.

The college years are also a time when serious mental illness which has previously been latent can emerge. The combination of hormones, stress, and perhaps a trauma (though not necessarily the one described) can unleash psychotic symptoms that had been unsuspected earlier.

I don't know this young woman, and couldn't say whether one of these explanations, or completely different one, is correct. The point is, all we know about "Jackie" we know from the Rolling Stone story, and they didn't do her justice. In failing her, they failed us all.


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