Tuesday, April 7, 2015

On the unraveling of Rolling Stone's UVA rape story

I'm actually glad that no one lost their jobs over this*, if only because we're so ready to launch a witch hunt when someone screws up, and I don't get perverse pleasure from seeing someone's career ruined, but the reaction to the story from day one through its retraction has been predictable and disappointing. It should have been Rolling Stone's decision not to run the story from the beginning. But something else about the whole mess leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

Critics, women in particular,  who questioned the story early on were labeled horrible, idiots and "rape apologists." A woman shouldn't have to turn over her feminist credentials to ask questions, especially if that woman is a journalist. I'm not saying that's what was going on in Sabrina Rubin Erdely's head, but I watched it happen to other women who typically have ace reporting skills. It's an easy trap to fall into especially now when online shaming is the norm rather than the exception.

* The journalist is a probably freelancer, so firing her isn't an option, but it will most likely impact her ability to get work in the future.