Thursday, December 04, 2014

The Rolling Stone UVA Rape Case: A "Reporter Would Not Be Expected To Interview" An "Alleged Mugger or Robber"

   As we've seen, Richard Bradley has pointed out that the author of the Rolling Stone article didn't interview the alleged rapists, and that this is bad journalistic practice, hence yet another reason to doubt the account.
  One response to this seems to have been first offered up by Helen Benedict:
“If a reporter were doing a story about a university accused of failing to address the mugging or robbery of a student, that reporter would not be expected to interview the alleged mugger or robber,”
   This argument was called "persuasive and important" by Katie McDonough in Salon (warning: Salon link! I try not to give that site clicks, but can't get the page properly archived), who argues that questioning the UVA case is "rape denialism." 
   However, the mugging argument is a terrible response to Bradley's journalistic objection. We don't try to interview alleged muggers because we don't have any idea who they are. If we did have some idea who had committed a mugging, then we would want him interviewed for a story on the mugging.
   But Jackie's story is not analogous to a mugging. It's analogous to something like kidnapping and torture (in fact: it's precisely kidnapping and torture)--and at least some of the perpetrators are allegedly known and can be identified. Now, if several people were accused of kidnapping and torture in the pages of a national magazine, and they could have been interviewed, but were not...well, that is, indeed, bad journalism.
  tl;dr: the mugging analogy doesn't work to deflect the journalistic objection.


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