Re: Shitty Shit Shit

1

What a fiasco.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12-10-14 6:18 PM
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Did some facekoob millionaire idiot also ruin RS? Wtf happened with the checking?!


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 12-10-14 6:23 PM
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Ugh, yeah, so other really complicated questions for young college students are how to deal with someone in the peer group who has a perhaps-unspecified traumatic meltdown, not to mention also Munchausen by proxy or catfishing. Those are good topics and maybe not things everyone here has talked about with their children, but not what the article was supposed to be about.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 12-10-14 6:40 PM
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Emily Renda, a 2014 U-Va. graduate who survived a rape during her freshman year and now works for the university as a sexual violence specialist, has told The Post that she met Jackie in the fall of 2013.

For me, the interesting part remains the journalistic principles involved. In previous threads, there was some discussion of how it would have been wrong to merely take Jackie's word for it that she had been raped.

This is incorrect. Note here that the WP accepts uncritically as fact that Renda was raped. In doing so, the Post is acting entirely appropriately.

What made the RS story suspect was not that the author accepted Jackie's story. It was that the story was full of confirmable details, but the author chose to identify someone as a criminal without making a basic effort to even confirm that person's existence. And we knew this before the WP started exposing the details, and before the RS semi-retraction.

It's pretty much axiomatic that people who don't have any interest in finding the truth can't be trusted to produce the truth, and Erdely demonstrated that she wasn't interested in the truth.

Jackie is a person with big problems, even if we don't know exactly what they are. Erdely and her editors have no excuse.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-10-14 6:43 PM
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There are something like 240k rapes in the US each year. What difference does plus or minus one make? I hope that Jackie wasn't raped and that she manages to right her life.

I think of Rolling Stone as the magazine that Hunter S. Thompson published in. I don't think they were ever a rock of journalism.

Charlottesville may have a serial killer running around, and it's also the happiest city in America. I don't know what it all means.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 12-10-14 6:46 PM
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I think of Rolling Stone as the magazine that Hunter S. Thompson published in. I don't think they were ever a rock of journalism.

Hunter S. Thompson was a great, great journalist, and Rolling Stone has done other terrific journalism.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-10-14 6:50 PM
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Well, he was a great writer, but I don't think he was really assaulted by bats around Barstow.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 12-10-14 6:52 PM
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Matt Taibbi is only the most recent of RS's great journalists.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-10-14 6:52 PM
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You're worried about the effect this will have on Matt Taibbi's reputation?

Here's Taibbi's reaction, FWIW.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 12-10-14 7:00 PM
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9: That wasn't why I brought up Taibbi in 8 - I was really talking about RS and not him.

But yeah, Taibbi's reaction struck me as dishonorable in pretty much the same way that New Republic writers - many of them quite good - embarrassed themselves by defending that publication.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-10-14 7:08 PM
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I dunno, Rolling Stone obviously didn't do some checking. But I 100% would not blindly trust the Washington Post's reporting on this either, especially as to tone, and can almost guarantee that their story is largely being fed (perhaps even students organized, though that's much more speculative) by the fraternity's lawyers.


Posted by: Tim "Ripper" Owens | Link to this comment | 12-10-14 7:08 PM
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I just wish RS would substantiate what they DID do in terms of fact-checking, because initially they claimed they'd done some, right?


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 12-10-14 7:18 PM
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11: In the previous thread, I was a little embarrassed by comments that I made that amounted to "I told you so."

You cured me of that embarrassment, Ripper, by contending that I remained in error. The difference between the RS writers and the WaPo is the one that I highlighted above: WaPo is interested in getting at the truth. They may not have it right, but they are obviously trying.

In the previous thread, a certain amount of ado was made about the Post's error in saying that the initial alleged rapist hadn't met Jackie. The Post, however, fixed that error by properly attributing that statement. That was obviously just a screwup, and not a fundamental epistemic failure.

And hey, guess what, it looks like the original alleged rapist was probably telling the truth. Anyway, it's pretty certain that at least one of the alleged "Drews" was pretty clearly not a Drew.

There is no factuality-based defense of RS. None.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-10-14 7:19 PM
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12: In fact, that's when the RS story began to unravel. Erdely declined to confirm whether she had made certain basic checks, and her editor said "We checked it," while refusing to say much of anything about how they had done so.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-10-14 7:23 PM
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But I 100% would not blindly trust the Washington Post's reporting on this either

And this, pardon me, is just stupid as shit at this stage in the conversation. Nobody is proposing that anyone "blindly" trust the WaPo. There are methods for identifying facts. RS's epistemology was deeply problematic in a way that the Post's is not.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-10-14 7:30 PM
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Oh, philosophy.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-10-14 7:36 PM
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I'm watching Rossellini's Cartesius. It's a little stiff.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 12-10-14 7:42 PM
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If the Washington Post published a story saying my mother loves me, I would be a little bit skeptical.


Posted by: Todd | Link to this comment | 12-10-14 7:46 PM
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At this point, I assume people are checking the RS reporter's other articles.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 12-10-14 7:52 PM
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19: Eh, this was as much a failure of editing as it was reporting. This isn't Stephen Glass. There's no reason to think that Erdely misled her editors or the fact-checkers. This was shoddy journalism all the way around.

And yes, I do plan to single-handedly take this thread to 500 comments. Why do you ask?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-10-14 7:59 PM
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I assume people are checking the RS reporter's other articles

They are. I must admit, at first glance, some evil twitterers have found stuff that definitely draws a "hmmm."

But this story is wackadoodle. If the latest Post piece is to be believed, Jackie invented a handsome upperclassman in order to make Randall jealous, and then either actually was raped on a fake date with a fake person, or faked it so well that her friends still think something terrible happened to her.

And then there are jawdroppers about RS's reporting.

The Rolling Stone article also said that Randall declined to be interviewed, "citing his loyalty to his own frat." He told The Post that he never was contacted by Rolling Stone and would have agreed to an interview.

Maybe Randall is lying (who isn't in this story?) but holy shit. Did Erdely flat out lie to her editors about trying to contact him?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-10-14 8:04 PM
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I just wish RS would substantiate what they DID do in terms of fact-checking

Agree. As to the rest, I like you pf, but I find your media criticizing kind of ill-informed and theoretical and either incomprehensible or boring. There's no such thing as established procedures for epistemic methods or whatever you're talking about. I think we can say for sure that RS screwed up, but you're a fool if you trust the Post too much, as I say especially in tone. Although I don't have any knowledge at all about this particular situation, I will say I have actual experience with these things, both from the media side as a lawyer and from the target using a lawyer to spin press coverage side. RS's apparent lack of checking has surprised me, unless they're keeping something up their sleeve, which at this point seems unlikely.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 12-10-14 8:07 PM
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22 was me, of course.


Posted by: Tim "Ripper" Owens | Link to this comment | 12-10-14 8:08 PM
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Yeah, I'm with 18 about the Post and there are things they're doing that I don't like. I mean, doesn't the article ogged links to in the OP say it's been updated but not show an edit history? I could look, but that would take work and at least here someone will fact check me.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 12-10-14 8:12 PM
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In a way this story reminds me of Serial in that something fucked up happened but I have no clue what and it doesn't seem like adding more information is getting any closer to the truth.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 12-10-14 8:23 PM
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Hanna Rosin at Slate nicely lays out the possibilities for the bit I quote in 21.

That could mean one of two things: Jackie could have given Erdely fake contact information for Randall and then posed as Randall herself, sending the reporter that email in which he supposedly declined to participate in the story. Erdely also could have lied about trying to contact Randall. Rolling Stone might have hinted at this possibility in its "Note to Our Readers" when it referred to a "friend of Jackie's (who we were told would not speak to Rolling Stone)" but later spoke to the Washington Post. That would take Erdely a big step beyond just being gullible and failing to check her facts, moving this piece in the direction of active wrongdoing.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-10-14 8:28 PM
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20: Inflating my comment to make it sound like I was suggesting a possible Stephen Glass level of deception is exactly the sort of thing Stephen Glass would do.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 12-10-14 8:52 PM
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Also, to engage in some poorly sourced speculation, if it's actually true that Randall wouldn't talk to RS, but then he appears to be a major source for WP, that would call his credibility into question.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 12-10-14 9:02 PM
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Weird as anything. I wonder if there's going to be some ultimate wrapup that gives us all a clear idea of what happened (with the RS story, not necessarily with what actually happened to Jackie), or if it's all going to drift off into confusion.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-10-14 9:11 PM
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It could become Serial Season 2.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 12-10-14 9:20 PM
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or faked it so well that her friends still think something terrible happened to her.

If we were betting that's why my money would be.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12-10-14 9:47 PM
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Somewhat tangential, perhaps, but related:

Is this the thread where I can vociferously object to the notion that the university (= the university administration) should have anything whatsoever to do with the adjudication of rape cases? What the university (= the university administration) does best is to schedule classes and exams; assign parking spaces; and contact alumni for fundraising purposes.

But rape is very serious, violent crime, and a felony, which does not, and should not, fall under the purview of the Dean of Students, the Dean of Parking, or the Dean of Mean. When there is a case/accusation of rape on campus, the university (= the university administration) needs to call for the damn police. This is not a "student conduct" case that can, or should, be addressed internally. Because rape is a very serious, violent crime, and a felony.

If a student is robbed at gunpoint at the campus bookstore, of course the uni will call for the police, because serious, violent crime, and felony. Well, likewise with rape.


Posted by: Just Plain Jane | Link to this comment | 12-10-14 10:22 PM
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32: Also, universities should not have their own PD's. Wouldn't be hard to make a condition for federal money being that you contract with your local metro PD or sheriff instead of having your own.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12-10-14 10:41 PM
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It seems to me, Ripper, that the WP is probably engaging in some journalism now. This story doesn't look anywhere near as lawyer sourced as the previous one I read.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 12:16 AM
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Yeah. I'm with gswift on this. The information we have is obviously inadequate but I have covered a couple of stories in which it slowly became apparent that the central source was crazy and their unraveling looks just like this. I even wrote one myself. When you as in the fact that this story appears to support an unequivocally good cause the potential for fucking up is immense.



Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 1:05 AM
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As s/b add


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 1:06 AM
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I have to say I was initially skeptical of the debunking, but this story is really turning out to be weird. If "Randall's" story is anything approaching accurate, it seems that the clearest thing( if that term can be used regarding anything going on here) is that Jackie has serious mental issues, and possibly experienced some sort of mental break? Late teens/early 20s is the classic onset period for schizophrenia.* I'm not totally ready to go there, because the more I hear the less I'm willing to believe anything. The radio silence on the part of RS is also strange. You'd think someone could produce and publish some sort of material evidence, like a copy of an email where Erderly asks to interview 'Randall.' It's also possible Jackie is deeply manipulative and managed to manipulate Erderly and her friends. It's very rare,** but sociopaths can be very convincing, I've heard, especially if for whatever reason you're predisposed to their story.

What could be more likely is that Jackie was having some issues, and a sexual assault with fuzzy details seemed like a good way to find a community/get attention and support from friends in a way that would not be questioned all that closely as long as she didn't go to the police. After a few years of this identity, she got carried away and agreed to be interviewed, not realizing that your story as a face for journalism is going to face much more scrutiny than the story as told in a survivor's support group. She may have misled Erderly in key ways, who failed to do due diligence in checking the story for whatever reason. I'm obviously not going to bet on this, but this is my working hypothesis, until we find out Randall is her evil twin separated at birth, or whatever other bizarre improbable detail will come out.

It's also possible Randall is still lying, though it seems risky to lie about something like being contacted for a story. God, who knows. It just feels like, of all the campus rapes that happens, why did this one have to be chosen for a story?

*It's also possible she really was sexually assaulted in some way during the process of her mental breakdown.
**Maybe? There are all those stories of people faking cancer on the internet.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 2:44 AM
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Is this the thread where I can vociferously object to the notion that the university (= the university administration) should have anything whatsoever to do with the adjudication of rape cases?

I agree, but the last time this came up, there was a lot of pushback on the grounds that, basically, you need to be able to punish people even when you can't prove beyond reasonable doubt that they've done anything wrong. If you're pretty sure that they've done something wrong - and that is "more likely than not" sure - then you should be able to give them a minor punishment that will mess them up a little bit.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 2:52 AM
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I like you pf

I like you too, Ripper! You're no Halford, but you seem like a good guy all the same.

Although I don't have any knowledge at all about this particular situation, I will say I have actual experience with these things, both from the media side as a lawyer and from the target using a lawyer to spin press coverage side.

I was criticizing RS editors, but this is also a pretty significant failure of lawyering (assuming that this story was run by a lawyer pre-publication, as I believe has been claimed).

In one sense, RS is lucky as hell that the story was as bad as it was. If Drew actually existed - as the lawyer had to assume - RS would would have libeled him.*

The law here, as you seemingly ought to know, is that you put yourself in legal peril if you identify someone as a rapist without having done due diligence. Erdely doesn't appear to have lied about her failure to try to contact Drew - at least, when asked publicly, she didn't lie about it. So absent further information, one supposes that the lawyer here just dropped the ball.

*Of course, in the counterfactual where Drew exists, he's probably a rapist, so maybe not. But it's still shoddy lawyering.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 3:23 AM
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The epistemological point here seems pretty straightforward, too: The less effort you put into finding the truth, the more likely you are to be misled.

Renda, Jackie's advocate, was very clear on this. Here she is discussing her own role:

"An advocate is not supposed to be an investigator, a judge or an adjudicator," said Renda

Renda explicitly accepts that she is going to be misled on some occasions, and says that it's not her role to go to any particular trouble to avoid being misled. This seems entirely appropriate to me.

Erdely, on the other hand, purported to be in a different role, and plainly failed to live up to the requirements of that role.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 3:45 AM
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40. Erdely was looking for a "good rape story" and visited several universities in search of one, so the term "confirmation bias" seems appropriate. She finally found a great story and believed it. I wonder how many women she talked to who had actually been raped, but not "internet sensation raped."


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 6:47 AM
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I table a motion that we amend 'shitty shit shit' to 'fuckity fucking fuck.' who's in favor?


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 7:04 AM
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Renda explicitly accepts that she is going to be misled on some occasions, and says that it's not her role to go to any particular trouble to avoid being misled. This seems entirely appropriate to me.
Erdely, on the other hand, purported to be in a different role, and plainly failed to live up to the requirements of that role.

PF is right.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 7:18 AM
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"Erdely was looking for a "good rape story" and visited several universities in search of one, so the term "confirmation bias" seems appropriate."

Write a trend story anchored around the most impressive example you can find is pretty standard.

Here is one at slate on "The College Rape Overcorrection":

http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2014/12/college_rape_campus_sexual_assault_is_a_serious_problem_but_the_efforts.html


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 7:19 AM
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42:
Im in favor.

Erdely and her editors and the lawyers really fucked over Jackie. She is a kid, barely an adult. If she lied, they still fucked her over by placing her on a national stage to get destroyed. They were supposed to be the professionals. Fuck them. If, as a professional, you just place a mentally ill private individual up to be mocked and harassed, fuck you.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 7:24 AM
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BTW, has anyone tied this story to the Republicans or the CIA as a diversion tactic yet?


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 7:27 AM
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I table a motion that we amend 'shitty shit shit' to 'fuckity fucking fuck.' who's in favor?

To "table a motion" means to postpone any further discussion of that motion until a later time or date. (Or perhaps indefinitely.) Since no one has made a motion to amend 'shitty shit shit' to 'fuckity fucking fuck,' your proposal to table this motion seems to be out of order.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 7:29 AM
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47: I looked that up - the term has different meanings in the U.S and the rest of the English-speaking world. Apparently alameida has decided she is no longer American.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 7:33 AM
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48: Huh, not just different, but completely opposite. That's my new fact for the day.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 7:39 AM
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I find it entirely plausible that something horrible happened to Jackie and that as time went by she inflated the horribleness in order to get sympathy commensurate with her pain.

Whatever pans out it's clear that Jackie is going to get absolutely shredded.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 7:39 AM
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My new fact for the day was that the Spanish cut off the right foot of 24 Pueblo Indians. The things kids pick-up in school these days.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 7:44 AM
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This could easily have gone so much worse.

photographs that were texted to one of the friends showing her date that night were actually pictures depicting one of Jackie's high school classmates in Northern Virginia. That man, now a junior at a university in another state, confirmed that the photographs were of him and said he barely knew Jackie...Additionally, he said that he had not visited Charlottesville in at least six years and that he was in another state participating in an athletic event during the weekend of Sept. 28, 2012.

Which is amazingly lucky for him. Imagine if he hadn't had an alibi. Or if she'd picked a random student at UVa instead of someone from her high school.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 7:44 AM
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49: The American sense is that the table is like that of a shelf, archive, or long-term storage device, where the topic has been disposed of by sending it to the 'table' and leaving it there.

This is 100% consistent with the way I use tables, desks, counter tops, and all flat surfaces.


Posted by: MAE | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 7:47 AM
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My new fact for the day was that the Spanish cut off the right foot of 24 Pueblo Indians. The things kids pick-up in school these days.

If my kid were bringing me back a foot from school, I'd want to have a talk with his or her teacher.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 7:50 AM
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48/49: huh, me too. Non-Americans are very weird.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 7:51 AM
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50: Probably not, at least IME. She might very well have a screwed up childhood and/or past assault but the Munchausen stuff from what I've seen doesn't come about from an exaggerated assault that actually occurred in the same timeframe.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 7:52 AM
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48/9. Yes, in the rest of the English Speaking world you table a motion to begin consideration of it; if you don't want it discussed further, you move that it lie on the table, i.e. that nobody pick it up.

The whole UVa thing just defeats me. Rolling Stone need rolling heads. Many of them.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 7:55 AM
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CUZ 41!!! why didn't she just report on one of the umpteen-bazillion actual campus rapes?

my mom came out of surgery unbelievably lucid for someone with a frankenstein 15-inch long curved scar held together with staples. the doctors said they'd never seen anyone reading two days later until now. unfortunately, yesterday was the day the oncologist came to see her (and my brother and aunt), so only last night did she fully realize she has thirty goddamn kinds of cancer. she sort of hadn't focused on it before, taking one brain surgery at a time. they're talking about chemo for now. she wants to know will she feel well enough to enjoy anything? she wants to see my girls and stay in our favorite hotel in the world on lombok, and go to florence one last time with her sister. she wants to not die.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 7:58 AM
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When Andy and Cindy first appeared in the Washington Post, they said only that they had talked to Jackie that night and she told them about forced oral sex. at that point, I thought that was most likely what really happened. Now that we have the stuff about the catfish date, I think all bets are off.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 7:59 AM
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58.2 is qualified good news - great that she's come back from the brain surgery so well. "Taking one brain surgery at a time" is a great attitude. Like the story from the Desert One fiasco about the Delta guy who was knocked cold in the collision and woke up to find himself in a burning helicopter, which he promptly threw himself out of. Fortunately it was on the ground at the time, but he didn't know that - he thought it was in flight. When questioned about the logic of his actions given this belief, he replied "One problem at a time."


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 8:04 AM
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oh, hm. in narnian meetings I think when you table the motion you put it on the table so everyone can discuss it. I now try to get into the driver's seat when a passenger, consistently look the wrong way when crossing the street, and sign emails with 'cheers.' it's so helpfully friendly but neutral! you don't "love" this person, but neither do you view them with the distant chilliness that inspires a "yours." flip correctly identified the best possible sign-off, namely, "blood and souls for my lord arioch!" but I'm not sure the world is ready.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 8:07 AM
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59 -- There's still the question of what she told UVa and what UVa did about it.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 8:09 AM
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62: agreed. I was talking only about what happened to Jackie that night.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 8:13 AM
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62: Very good chance she said nothing to UVa. This is Munchausen stuff. The goal is the attention, not an actual investigation. We often get involved in these because a friend or family members calls, not the victim.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 8:13 AM
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I've hired a professional cleaning crew to go over the house, which had gotten into some grey gardens situations. no sheets on mom's bed, cigarette butts everywhere, cat shit around, even dog shit inside from no one letting him out. my (future? I assume) sister-in-law has been working really hard for a week and has gotten things a million times better. I have to negotiate hurt feelings about this like I'm criticizing her efforts. bullshit like this is exactly the reason I don't read american fiction from the 1950s-1970s.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 8:14 AM
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64: why did she have to be a psycho? goddamnit.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 8:15 AM
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55 to 54


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 8:17 AM
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There's still the question of what she told UVa and what UVa did about it.

That was supposed to be the point of the story. Erdely fucked her over by including details to make it more sensational. (Like that UVa song that nobody at UVa that I know of has ever heard.) So Erdely failed to investigate her story about UVa allegedly failing to investigate.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 8:21 AM
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my (future? I assume) sister-in-law has been working really hard for a week and has gotten things a million times better

That's good, because weren't you a bit worried about her intentions a year or so back? Sounds like she is OK after all.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 8:22 AM
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bullshit like this is exactly the reason I don't read american fiction from the 1950s-1970s.

You lost me there.


Posted by: idp | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 8:24 AM
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The table thing is especially strange when you remember that in the US, you take something off the table (like a platinum coin! remember them!) if you want to rule it out of further consideration, and put it on the table if you want to bring it up as an option, but you table it if you want to take it off the table.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 8:28 AM
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Actually, I have some sympathy even for Erdely. She fucked up, big time. But so did her editors and fact checkers. And it is really astonishingly difficult to deal with eg Munchausens the first time you come across it because the teller comes across as completely sincere -- indeed passionate -- and lying on that scale without any obvious motive is completely outside normal experience. I mean, if someone is scamming you, there's normally a fairly obvious advantage to them in doing so. But there's no upside at all for Jackie in talking to RS, as is now completely apparent.


Also, and talking here out of my own experience, every part of the story is on its own entirely coherent and credible. It is only when you try to fit all the bits together that you realise that either the source is lying or literally everyone else in the world is conspiring against them in some way. It's not just "he said she said" but "he said, she said, and she said and she and she and she and she all said" (to swap the genders of this particular one around)


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 8:28 AM
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But so did her editors and fact checkers. And it is really astonishingly difficult to deal with eg Munchausens the first time you come across it because the teller comes across as completely sincere -- indeed passionate -- and lying on that scale without any obvious motive is completely outside normal experience. I mean, if someone is scamming you, there's normally a fairly obvious advantage to them in doing so.

Journalism 101 - if your mother tells you she loves you, get a second source.

She should be writing for a national magazine then.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 8:32 AM
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should not be


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 8:32 AM
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Jackie went to dean Earmo of UVa and told her story at the end of her freshman year (most likely a story close to the story in the original Rolling Stone article). The Dean was sympathetic but did not press her to do a formal complaint. :


Though a psychiatrist had put Jackie on Wellbutrin, she had remained depressed, couldn't concentrate, and spent the semester so frightened and withdrawn that her academic dean finally called her in to discuss why she'd failed three classes. In his office, with her mother beside her, she'd burst into tears, and her mother explained she'd had a "bad experience" at a party. He'd blanched and given Jackie the e-mail for Dean Eramo.

.....


Eventually, UVA furnished Rolling Stone with some of its most recent tally: In the last academic year, 38 students went to Eramo about a sexual assault, up from about 20 students three years ago. However, of those 38, only nine resulted in "complaints"; the other 29 students evaporated. Of those nine complaints, four resulted in Sexual Misconduct Board hearings. UVA wasn't willing to disclose their outcomes, citing privacy. Like most colleges, sexual-assault proceedings at UVA unfold in total secrecy. Asked why UVA doesn't publish all its data, President Sullivan explains that it might not be in keeping with "best practices" and thus may inadvertently discourage reporting. Jackie got a different explanation when she'd eventually asked Dean Eramo the same question. She says Eramo answered wryly, "Because nobody wants to send their daughter to the rape school."

For now, however, Jackie left her first meeting with Eramo feeling better for having unburdened herself, and with the dean's assurance that nothing would be done without her say-so. Eramo e-mailed a follow-up note thanking Jackie for sharing, saying, "I could tell that was very difficult for you," and restating that while she respected Jackie's wish not to file a report, she'd be happy to assist "if you decide that you would like to hold these men accountable." In the meantime, having presumably judged there to be no threat to public safety, the UVA administration took no action to warn the campus that an allegation of gang rape had been made against an active fraternity.



Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 8:34 AM
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It's extremely unlikely that the journalist made an actual attempt to contact "Randall" and has no hard evidence of having done so.

Werdna, no amount of crazy from "Jackie" makes the journalist write that she tried to get "Randall" on record but he wouldn't tell her anything because of loyalty to his own frat. She's either got notes and a phone record, or she's got to look for a new career.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 8:39 AM
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Or both.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 8:41 AM
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70: oh, it's just the perfect subject for a certain kind of 20th century novel to have everyone feeling so emotional about someone dying of cancer that they end up having a muted war over whether one person respects the other's efforts to clean the baseboards.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 8:47 AM
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70: oh, it's just the perfect subject for a certain kind of 20th century novel to have everyone feeling so emotional about someone dying of cancer that they end up having a muted war over whether one person respects the other's efforts to clean the baseboards.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 8:47 AM
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Werdna, no amount of crazy from "Jackie" makes the journalist write that she tried to get "Randall" on record but he wouldn't tell her anything because of loyalty to his own frat.

Well, there is one scenario that works here (and seems not impossible given Jackie's pre-assault behaviour):

Erdely: This is a terrible story. Can I talk to "Randall" about it?
Jackie: Well, I doubt he'll say anything but here is his gmail address.
Erdely (emails) Hello Randall, can I talk to you about a very serious assault on your friend Jackie in 2012?
Jackie (emails) Hello, this is Randall, I am not going to tell you anything because of loyalty to my frat.
Editor: did you try to contact any of the other people involved?
Erdely: Sure, here's the email trail, they wouldn't talk.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 8:50 AM
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Ok, yeah.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 8:52 AM
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Journalism 101 - if your mother tells you she loves you, get a second source.

The way I learned it was that, in every professional conversation you have, you should be asking yourself "Why is this lying bastard lying to me now?" This is the point at which basic expectations of journalistic behaviour towards sources runs headlong into basic expectations of how you are supposed to treat rape survivors.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 8:55 AM
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80 A UVa student should have a UVa email address. It would be a very incompetent reporter indeed who just took a gmail address at face value and didn't seek out the student's .edu address.

And I'll second alameida's motion to table and move to use shitty shit shit for the torture shit.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 8:59 AM
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This is the point at which basic expectations of journalistic behaviour towards sources runs headlong into basic expectations of how you are supposed to treat rape survivors.

Erdeley could have been entirely supportive of Jackie in their personal dealings, but that doesn't means that she should have filed a story without corroboration; that her editor shouldn't have asked her lond, hard questions about it if she did; or that the editor in chief shouldn't have spiked it on legal advice. Right now I can't think of anybody at the magazine who should keep their job apart from the sports editor. Oh, and possibly the music journalists.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 9:02 AM
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73 and 82:

I know that is one of the myths we tell about ourselves, but it's horseshit. The only people who will lie to you all the time about everything are your editors, managers, and rivals on a beat; even they normally have clear and obvious motives for doing so. [This behaviour is much less prevalent at my current workplace than elsewhere].

Most journalism is built on trust and has to be. Obviously PR people lie -- politicians much less often in my experience. But few people lie deliberately, however common self-decpetion may be. And if you trust people, and treat them as human beings rather than subjects for interrogation they will tell you more and better stories.

Doesn't mean that Erdely and RS generally should not have done a much better job; just that very few stories, at least in this country, are approached with anything like the degree of suspicion you're demanding.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 9:05 AM
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84: Perfect.


Posted by: biohazard | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 9:06 AM
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79: I promise never ever be offended by anyone who wants to pay people to come clean my baseboards.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 9:07 AM
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To clarify: I agree with Chris that heads should roll like a cascade of ball bearings all across the offices at Rolling Stone. But I can still feel some sympathy for the decapitated.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 9:08 AM
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"The only people who will lie to you all the time about everything are your editors, managers, and rivals on a beat"

This, too, is horseshit.

"And if you trust people, and treat them as human beings rather than subjects for interrogation they will tell you more and better stories. "

But, tragically, not truer stories.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 9:10 AM
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Erdely and RS had no notion that a story about rape on a campus would get intense scrutiny and push-back in every area possible? The Fifties are repeating themselves.


Posted by: biohazard | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 9:12 AM
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What's odd is that RS in particular had a long-time reputation of being known for particularly intense fact checking, a legacy of the old dirt-digging on rock stars and labels who would sue days. It's still not at all clear to me what happened, maybe Erdely fabricated some stuff, maybe a tape of a sympathetic victim was enough to make everyone forget to check anything else, maybe there's more to the story and backup that we don't know about, maybe standards have fallen.


Posted by: Tim "Ripper" Owens | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 9:23 AM
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85, 88, 89 -- I've never been able to square the hard-hitting investigative rhetoric from journalists with the fact that every time I've ever read a story about something where I know more than the journalist, the story gets it wrong in major ways (to be clear, I'm talking about sins of omission, not commission) and does so because the author is clearly buying into the tale told by one or maybe two sources. Don't get me wrong, I love journalists, we need them, and not everything is like this, but "check everything" usually means accepting the narrative someone feeds the journo, writing it up, then doing a few calls to get comfort that there are no RS style clear embarrassing fact errors.


Posted by: Tim "Ripper" Owens | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 9:30 AM
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64,72: Hey, why are people blaming this on me?


Posted by: Opinionated Hieronymus Karl Friedrich Baron von M√ľnchhausen | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 9:38 AM
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87: THAT'S a sensible attitude. especially if they are going to take everything out of your fridge in order to clean the inside, and take out the food from the cabinets to clean the interior of the cabinets, and wash all the plates that are in open shelving.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 10:06 AM
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83: many schools (e.g. my alma mater) will happily issue you more than one .edu address on request.


Posted by: torque | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 11:04 AM
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95: Sure, but there's a publicly searchable database of current students and all of their registered .edu addresses. So if you want to talk to, say, Joe Smith, you could use that search tool to confirm Joe's registered email addresses and insist that he respond to an email you've sent to one of his confirmed .edu addresses.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 11:12 AM
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92: Journalism is a method of knowing and conveying facts, and like all such human methods, it has limits.

Indeed, by definition, Ripper is going to have a better idea of what's going on in cases "where I know more than the [fact-finder]." Must we fault reporters, juries, police, scientists and clergy if they lack the knowledge and wisdom of Ripper? Who could possibly meet that standard?

Journalism operates under a lot of constraints - the most obvious being resource constraints. Show me a journalistic outlet that lacks Ripper's insight, and I'll show you an outlet that can't afford to hire Ripper.

So - like courtrooms and scientific journals and whatnot - journalism has a set of professional standards designed to maximize truth-telling within existing constraints.

If Renda, from my example in 4, turns out to be lying about her rape, well, journalism by-and-large isn't equipped to expose that sort of lie, and nobody would be calling for the head of the WaPo reporter if such a falsehood were exposed.

Erdely, on the other hand, thumbed her nose at ordinary journalistic standards, and is being correctly called to account for it.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 11:17 AM
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something where I know more than the journalist, the story gets it wrong

Why can't I find the famous quote that's along the lines of "95 percent of what I read in the paper is true. Of the other 5% I have personal knowledge."


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 2:14 PM
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something where I know more than the journalist, the story gets it wrong

Why can't I find the famous quote that's along the lines of "95 percent of what I read in the paper is true. Of the other 5% I have personal knowledge."


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 2:14 PM
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98: Certainly when news stories venture near one of my sub areas of science, the article content tends to be a mix of wrong and not even wrong.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 2:28 PM
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While I initially found the accounts in the story plausible, I strongly disliked the way it was written, and especially Erdeley's strong bias towards pressuring people who have been raped to always call the police. Even in the best case scenario (sympathetic cops; sensitive, timely, and thorough investigation; successful prosecution or plea bargain of the rapist; clear communication throughout), the process is going to be hellish for the survivor, and at least possibly worse than not reporting. OTOH, no one that I personally know who has been raped has faced the best case scenario. Many of us have had solid reasons for not reporting.

In terms of whether colleges/unis should be dealing with this at all, I'm of two minds. If a student has multiple plausible complaints against him (or her), or an organization has a pattern of complaints against it, then it seems the college should act, regardless of a police investigation. Likewise, students should have latitude to switch dorms, classes, etc if they feel threatened. Expelling or suspending students seems trickier, but given that it can be done for conduct reasons more generally, I think it's still appropriate. The question, as always, is whether colleges can fairly and competently do so.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 3:08 PM
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Once I noticed that The Economist was usually wrong in writing about topics I know about, I became free to stop reading it, recognizing it was probably wrong about everything else as well.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 3:10 PM
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100: My current boss was featured in a Slate article several years ago. It was a good big picture with one hilariously wrong detail and odd human interest touches. Overall, not bad, though.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 3:15 PM
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This Harper's article is a much better version of what the RS piece attempted to do.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 8:33 PM
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101: The problem is when it's in the university's interest to resolve rape allegations without involving the police, so as not to affect their reputation. Some kind of mediation is needed, as so many assaults are simply not going to be prosecutable, but I fear that it leads to less pressure to report allegations to the cops.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 8:42 PM
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The problem is when it's in the university's interest to resolve rape allegations without involving the police, so as not to affect their reputation.

Yes, this. And it is almost always in their interest to not involve the police: the university will not willingly or voluntarily do anything that might undermine its alumni funding, or weaken its college ranking.


Posted by: Just Plain Jane | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 9:02 PM
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This is very true. I should add that I'm personally involved in a university complaint at the moment, and the process has been awful for everyone involved. I thought I had lost all of my illusions about academia back in grad school, but I had no idea how disheartened I'd be as a professor.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 9:13 PM
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98: Annoyed that I can't find it either.

But in searching found Tesla being very wrong.

The newspapers of the twenty-first century will give a mere 'stick' in the back pages to accounts of crime or political controversies, but will headline on the front pages the proclamation of a new scientific hypothesis.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-11-14 9:26 PM
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will headline on the front pages the proclamation of a new scientific hypothesis.

Like "global warming does not exist".


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-12-14 2:41 AM
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107: I'm sure you have to keep things confidential, but I'd be happy to support you if there's anything I can do. I've played my role as a cog in that system and the resolution was good but almost by chance as far as the thing making sense.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 12-12-14 5:07 AM
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Thanks, Thorn. At this point, I'm waiting on a third Title IX office report, and hoping it's more satisfying than the first two.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 12-12-14 9:58 AM
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