Home | About | Donate

Notes and Comment's CJR's Investigation into Rolling Stone’s ‘A Rape on Campus.’


Notes and Comment's CJR's Investigation into Rolling Stone’s ‘A Rape on Campus.’

Jay Rosen


My concern is how this story is going to damage the TRUTH about campus rape.

Amy Goodman interviewed a man just released after 30 years on death row and his attorney makes the brilliant and compelling case that capital punishment within a largely racist prison-industrial complex is a carryover of the old Lynching apparatus that terrorized Black citizens in the South after the Civil War and up too all too recently. He specified further that it was the picture of the Black man as violent and dangerous that continues to fuel the disproportionate “guilty until proven innocent” maimed justice that still crucifies far too many Black males.

In parallel, the taint of the Judeo-Christian mythology with its “Blame Eve Again” syndrome sets up the unconscious assumption that either she deserved it, she was doing something wrong, or she lied about it.

These prejudices always put the woman–as genuine victim–on the spot and too often give males–particularly athletes or those from “good” families a pass.

Justice is more than blind in societies that pretend that the long histories of racism and sexism have somehow been expiated or transcended.

The Rolling Stone journalistic errors will become part of a popular narrative used to now turn every bona fide campus rape accusation into something suspect.

Just what young women need!


I wish there had been such a comprehensive investigation into the media-wide fabrications that culminated in the invasion of Iraq.


I have a number of things to go over but for shortness I will limit this to your point #6 because I believe that is where your criticism of the story and understanding of the climate is most off track.

From Erdely’s notes - pulling apart a number of items in the quote
1 searching for a single, emblematic college rape case
2 what it’s like to be on campus now
3 where not only is rape so prevalent
4 pervasive culture of sexual harassment/rape culture

This by itself is so wrong it take several articles going into not only statistics but into the history and context of those various statistics going from one in three, to one in four, to one in five, to one in 19 to the large study released in December from the government which puts this offense in the less than one percent area (0.61% I think),

Changing crime definitions and categories, inconsistent police reporting (Uniform Crime Reporting) need to be dealt with. Separating on-campus, college-age, off-campus, community-wide versus whatever categories needs to be dealt with. Not to mention that the violent crime (all types of violent crime) perpetrated on the population is less than the supposed figures for rapes over all (need to define rape again) and even more difference for rapes on campus and/or among college-age populations for students and non-students.

The very charged and highly contentious framing of a “rape culture” and of merging harassment with rape as if there were any sort of “culture” either in the general population or on campus or in frats is a problem.

Basically the author and her editors assumed that there is a massive and unchecked epidemic of rapes, in particular on college campuses. Then they went looking for it. And, you (Jay Rosen) would seem also to have bought into this categorization, by, at the very least, by not calling out the entire foundation for such stories, rather than merely examining the way a particular story was handled. The otherwise excellent investigative story into the story also make this error of not questioning the entire foundation for the story.

At the heart of the problems with this story going wrong and the large number of similar stories which are wrong but don’t blow up, is an agenda of blindness, narrow framing of a topic and a determination to have a cause rooted in anger. The real epidemic, if it can be called that, is the epidemic of false stories. There are real problems for people who are real victims but this is framing avoids the larger share of people, mostly women, who are true victims.

As to the point about making the procedures in writing and researching the story, your criticism of their safeguards implied the safeguards are not adequate. I don’t see anything wrong with them, assuming they are actually followed, which it seems they were not. Usually a checklist is a good reminder and guide but I have yet to see a “checklist” system which works by itself and does not need experienced individuals fulfill the intent of such a set of in-practice procedures.