Magazine article Editor & Publisher

J-School Students and Industry Vets Tackle the Tough Questions

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

J-School Students and Industry Vets Tackle the Tough Questions

Article excerpt

Q: Even though the Columbia Journalism School's investigation of Rolling Stone's "A Rape on Campus" found major failures by the writer, editor and fact-checkers, no one at the magazine was disciplined. Do you think someone should have resigned or been fired?

A: A journalist's top priority should always be to produce fair and accurate content and fact-check each line until the story boasts complete journalistic integrity. This basic skill is the foundation of every journalism school's curriculum and is expected of all reporters in the professional field, as well.

The request is simple, however, as Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism has recently unveiled, Rolling Stone's "A Rape on Campus" failed to uphold reputable industry standards, calling it "a story of journalistic failure that was avoidable."

Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the article's author, instilled an innate level of trust in the story's subject, "Jackie," and her recollections, but even the strongest faith should not have voided her journalistic responsibilities. A journalist must be objective, especially when reporting on an issue that confirms his or her preconceptions, and consider each side of the story.

The errors made by Erdely and other editorial members were severe enough to personally call upon one of the country's most respected graduate programs for review, and such mistakes typically evoke serious consequences. Embarrassment alone cannot be justified as an appropriate punishment.

While Rolling Stone doesn't have to fire anyone, no one has to believe any story they publish, either. This is why appropriate action must be taken to rebuild its credibility.

Although it helps that the magazine was willing to have a thorough report of its failures, that's simply not enough. If no one is fired or resigns, I believe those responsible should explain their actions, either in print or during an open forum held at the university. It's avoidable mistakes like this that diminish the respect most journalists work diligently to protect.

Dylan Skye Aycock, 20

sophomore, Middle Tennessee State University (Murfreesboro, Tenn.)

Aycock is the features editor of Sidelines, the student newspaper at Middle Tennessee State University, where she is a journalism major. …

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