Richard Bradley, a writer and editor who questioned Rolling Stone’s “A Rape on Campus” story soon after its publication, reacts to the Columbia School of Journalism investigation of “what went wrong” with the reporting of that article–an investigation that cites his own early criticism by name.
From Bradley’s blog Shots in the Dark:
Sabrina Rubin Erdely claims that she spoke to Jackie several days after publication and just happened to ask her, “Oh, by the way, what was Drew’s real name? You can tell me now.” [I’m paraphrasing, of course.] And that when Jackie fudged on the spelling of Drew’s last name, Erdeley suddenly got suspicious.
This anecdote is, I suspect, a load of hooey. There were, after all, many, many pre-publication indicators that Jackie was not a reliable source, yet Erdely never got suspicious then. Jackie won’t return calls, she threatens to back out of the story, Jackie’s mother won’t return calls…. Let me tell you something: If you have a source who’s claiming she was gang-raped, and tells you to talk to her mother for corroboration, and the mother won’t return your phone calls—you get nervous fast.
It’s incomprehensible to me that there could be red flags like this and only now, post-publication, when Jackie misspells Drew’s last name, does her spider sense start to tingle. (It’s worth noting, by the way, that the reason Jackie would have claimed she didn’t know the exact spelling of Drew’s last name would be to hide the fact that there was no Drew, and make Drew’s non-existence harder to establish—a fine example of Jackie’s calculated deception to keep her horrible fable from coming apart.)
Erdely claims that she asked Jackie this question at this point because Drew was “at-large” and “dangerous.” That claim does not pass the smell test. For one thing, this would have been the case pre-publication as well as post. For another, in the wake of the 2.7 million readers Erdely’s story attracted, it’s implausible that Drew was sitting back is his frat boy lair planning his next gang rape. This is not Silence of the Lambs we’re talking about.
I think Erdely told this story to try to look like she was being responsible and thorough, even if only after the fact. My bet is that she was probably reacting to something—post-publication phone calls from skeptics? my blog post? the reporting of T. Rees Shapiro or Hanna Rosin?—that rattled her, and she was starting to panic, and trying to confirm what she should have confirmed (or not) before the article was published.
Which is another way of saying that I don’t think Jackie is the only liar in this matter.
Read the rest of the article here.