Truth. The most essential part to every story. The part that can be the most difficult to nail down and the part that typically involves several discrepancies before there is a clear forerunner. Ever since we were young children, we were taught to tell the truth. This core lesson in life extends well beyond childhood and into the professional world as telling the truth is vital to maintaining a job. In their most basic codes of ethics, it is ingrained in journalists that the single most important element in any story is for the facts to be 100% correct and free of biases. In the article printed in the Rolling Stone Magazine in November 2014 reporting of an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia shocking readers by its’ explicitness, all oaths of journalism seem to be broken. Just now in April 2015, the world is finding out the extent of the untruthfulness, bias and all around “bad journalism” the magazine got away with for far too long.
News coverage has exploded in the last week as reporters and officials attempt to reach the bottom of a still seemingly murky story as to what really happened at the University of Virginia last fall. Journalist Sabrina Rubin Erdely, who claimed to have conducted all the interviews for the article and the one who is ‘credited’ with the shocking article, publicly admitted this week, “I allowed my concern for Jackie’s well-being, my fear of re-traumatizing her, and my confidence in her credibility to take the place of more questioning and more facts.” This may be an apology of sorts but if this was such a mistake on her part, why is the Rolling Stone Magazine not taking further action in an attempt to save their own reputation? In the past, the public has seen journalists cross many lines of ethics, but those journalists have been quickly fired to insure minimal attention and maintain the credibility of the news networks. But with statements released in the past week clearly stating there is no intention of firing those involved with the story, it is curious if the Rolling Stone Magazine had some type of supportive role in the story as well. Whether it was a marketing ploy, a specific strategy, or simply “bad journalism”, the damage has been done and the public may never know the real reason behind the article.
As the debate continues and officials try to sift through what is an isn’t true at the University of Virginia and at the magazine, what it comes down to is the idea that the media is intended to be a source the public can trust. Yet if news networks do not hold their journalists to the high standards they have so long claimed as immensely important, how is the public to be confident they are hearing the real story whenever they immerse themselves in any type of news content? To me it seems plain and simple, stick with the basics; tell the truth.