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Dan Gilmore / May 13, 2015

UVA Dean Sues Rolling Stone Over Rape Story

It’s devilishly hard for someone in America to successfully sue a publication for libel. Not only does the plaintiff have to convince the court that what was published was false and caused harm, but the plaintiff also has to prove that the publication acted with malicious intent. In response to Rolling Stone’s grossly irresponsible false report on a supposed rape on the University of Virginia campus, the college’s Associate Dean of Students Nicole Eramo filed a $7.5 million suit against the magazine and the author of the story, Sabrina Rubin Erdely. Based on the complaint, it appears Eramo has a case. She alleges Erdely never attempted to get documents that would have disproven “Jackie’s” story. And the reporter hid her work by using pseudonyms to describe people in the story she didn’t talk to and dismissed concerns by a Rolling Stone copy editor who wondered why Erdely didn’t talk to the accused. The complaint alleges even Jackie was uncomfortable with how the magazine portrayed Eramo. But Erdely was trying to fit this story into a template, the one she used in the past when writing about rape — a template that produced several factually challenged stories. As Jonah Goldberg wrote last month, journalistic ethics are “all based on a very simple rule: Tell the truth.” More…

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