Should Reporters Be Careful, Even When a Sexual Accusation is Made?

Some of them think so now, in the wake of the Rolling Stone blunder.

This happens a lot: There is a massive news media screw-up — someone somewhere gets something incredibly wrong. This triggers pontificating op-ed pieces, most of them concluding that newsfolk need to be more careful.

Well . . . duh!

It happened when Dateline NBC rigged a fiery crash test of a pickup truck. It has happened several times with CBS News, most recently after a 60 Minutes report on Benghazi was shown to be inaccurate.

It does not happen often when news media get things terribly wrong about sexual accusations, like they did in the cases of  Tawana Brawley or the Duke University LaCrosse team. That’s probably because newsfolk, along with many others, have a deeply rooted predetermined narrative about sexual accusations. They cherry-pick facts, and make stuff up, so their stories conform to their personal biased narratives.

This is exactly what took place in the Rolling Stone story about an alleged rape at the University of Virginia.

We hope that some of the pontificating around this screw-up will stick and news reporting on sexual accusations is reined in from the realm of reporters’ fearful fantasies.

Truly tragic in this situation: It is a setback for the victims of sexual assault. There are those who cling to the delusion that all such accusations are made up. Of course that is not true, but Rolling Stone has handed those deluded folks a weapon.

Meanwhile, here is a sampling of some of the pontificating:

” . . . maybe we’ve reached a point where we hold stories about rape to a lower standard.”Slate

“This disaster is the sole property of editors and a reporter.”Washington Post

“We can’t afford to back off because of one big lie and some woefully inadequate journalism.”Boston Globe

“This story should be a reminder of how difficult it is to accurately report on traumatic events.”Vox

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