Statement from the Clery Center Regarding “Rolling Stone”

Statement from the Clery Center Regarding "Rolling Stone"

The Columbia Journalism School’s report on the “Rolling Stone” article “A Rape on Campus” is a powerful reminder of the damaging impact of ineffective reporting.

Although “Rolling Stone” uses support for Jackie to explain procedural missteps, responsible reporting practices are, in fact, fundamental to sensitively responding to the needs of survivors when covering campus sexual assault.

Responsible reporting practices when working with survivors include:

  • Setting expectations about the different stages of the process, including how interviews will be conducted and the outlet’s fact-checking methods;
  • Maintaining open communication to address survivors’ questions balanced with candid conversations about what survivors may experience when coming forward with their stories; and
  • Commitment to continued education for journalists on working with survivors of sexual assault. (The National Sexual Violence Resource Center partnered with Poynter News University to create a course, “Reporting on Sexual Violence,” which is available at no cost.)

“Rolling Stone” owed it to Jackie, and to all other survivors, to report thoroughly and sensitively. They owed it to their readership to publish a comprehensive story. And they owed it to themselves to get it right – the first time.

Columbia’s report noted that the story was viewed over 2.7 million times — more than any other story “Rolling Stone” published, not including those featuring a celebrity. With this enormous reach, “Rolling Stone” had the opportunity to increase dialogue about a critical problem at colleges and universities across the nation. In spite of incredible leaps over the past year, the failures of “A Rape on Campus” moved the conversation in a stifling and unhelpful direction.

The Clery Center envisions a world in which survivors can come forward without fear. Though “Rolling Stone” drastically missed the mark, we still believe in the power of survivors telling their stories and the ability of the media to share survivor experiences with thoughtfulness and care.