On November 19, 2014, Sabrina Erdely of Rolling Stone published an article that destroyed the reputation of a fraternal chapter and tore apart the UVA community. The article entitled “A Rape on Campus”, told the story of a girl named Jackie Coakley who was apparently raped by multiple individuals in a heinous hazing stunt. The perpetrator, known as “Haven Monahan”, forced Jackie into this terrifying escapade. Despite the witnesses and numerous perpetrators who may have been there, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence. All police resources have been exhausted and nothing has been found. In fact, there is really nothing to go off of.
Jackie Coakley, the supposed victim of the UVA rape, has been recently ordered to give over her communications with her supposed rapist. If there are no communications, there will be little to no evidence of any incident ever occurring. The Columbian School of Journalism additionally reviewed the Rolling Stone article, pointing out many discrepancies in the article. Nearly all investigations into the case have found inconsistencies in the story given, further reducing the reliability of the article. Nicole Eramo, associate dean at UVA, has pushed a 7.5 million dollar lawsuit against Rolling Stone. Eramo filed this case after her reputation was defiled in the aftermath of the apparent “rape”. Eramo blames Rolling Stone for their lack of fact-checking and willingness to take such an edgy story without any evidence. In addition, Eramo claims that Jackie Coakley is a “serial liar” and that she fabricated the story in order to gain attention.
So how could this article be published in a renowned magazine without any form of fact checking? Perhaps it’s the political agenda of Rolling Stone, paired with their lack of sympathy for anyone who does not represent their audience. Whatever the truth may be, there is one thing that is evident: one article can leave a path of destruction. It is without question that many journalists do not understand the impact of their writing. In this case, I believe Sabrina Erdely knew exactly what she was doing, and that’s the sad part. If she wasn’t on the traditional fraternity witch-hunt than she ultimately failed to provide accurate journalism to her audience.