April 13, 2015
Trust is an invaluable asset in the world. It takes forever to achieve, but only a few seconds to be broken forever.
Trust in journalists, and in journalism, took another hit via Rolling Stone magazine.
The magazine ran a story documenting a supposed gang rape on the campus of the University of Virginia carried out by a fraternity there, Phi Kappa Psi.
Turns out, the story that ran in November, titled “A Rape on Campus,” was not correct. After immediate criticism from other outlets including the Washington Post, the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism was asked to carry out an objective review of the magazine’s editorial process.
The report took to task the editorial process at the newspaper, and after the scathing description, Rolling Stone officially retracted the story and committed to implementing journalistic recommendations from the report.
“We would like to apologize to our readers and to all of those who were damaged by our story and the ensuing fallout, including members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity and UVA administrators and students,” said Rolling Stone managing editor Will Dana.
“Sexual assault is a serious problem on college campuses, and it is important that rape victims feel comfortable stepping forward. It saddens us to think that their willingness to do so might be diminished by our failings.”
This statement addressed the immediate problems that stemmed from their mistakes. The University of Virginia and the fraternity now have a black mark on their resume and have to recover their reputations. The fraternity announced on April 6 that it would pursue legal action against Rolling Stone.
The issue of sexual assault, an issue already hard to talk about, may have become even tougher to communicate due to their mistake.
The statement addressed these problems, but will in no way minimize or mask the harm done.
But Rolling Stone forgot the greater impact of their mistake.
This blow to trust in journalism falls after Brian Williams made headlines for his “misremembering.”
But this Rolling Stone issue is especially troubling, because it involves a college, a place where the future leaders of our country are forming their opinions on everything from politics to sports to ethics. The members of the fraternity and the university will now look at journalism through the lens of this event.
Journalists, especially at the college level, have the obligation to do things the right way. The influence that media has is powerful, and if misused, has the authority to lend far reaching consequences.
Ethics build trust and credibility, something vital to news media as the face of journalism changes.
On a professional journalist level, the staff of The Scribe is no different than that of Rolling Stone. We see the breach of ethics that have taken place in our field, and we cringe. Not only for ourselves, but for the future leaders in college seeing these incidents.
We work hard to gain your trust, and we work even harder to keep it. Because we know it only takes one slip to lose.