Disgraced Rolling Stone reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely is reportedly “re-reporting” a de-bunked story she wrote for the magazine last month, raising questions over whether she’s the right person for the job.
“Rubin Erdely is deeply compromised by her original shoddy reporting, and she is now part of this story; it makes no sense for her to be a part of ‘re-reporting’ it,” wrote Richard Bradley, the editor-in-chief of Worth magazine who was the first to raise questions about Erdely’s 9,000-word piece.
In the article, Erdely told the story of a University of Virginia student named Jackie who claimed that she was gang-raped by seven fraternity members in September 2012. The story was shocking on several fronts. Besides the gruesome attack, Jackie claimed that three friends who met up with her after the attack talked her out of seeking help following the rape.
Though most of the story — from Jackie’s claims to Erdely’s reporting — has been called into question if not outright debunked, it came to light on Monday that Erdely has contacted Jackie’s friends claiming that she is “re-reporting” the article.
Ryan Duffin, one of the three friends known as “Randall” in Erdely’s article, told The Daily Caller that he has corresponded with Erdely through e-mail and spoken with her on the phone. He said he was unable to discuss the conversation because both he and the reporter agreed to speak off-the-record.
Duffin has said he was not portrayed correctly in the piece. He also denied that Erdely tried to contact him for comment, though the reporter wrote that he declined to comment by citing allegiance to his own fraternity.
Kathryn Hendley, who was called “Cindy” in the article, told The Associated Press that Erdely apologized to her for how she was portrayed in the piece. Though Erdely never interviewed Hendley, she was described in the piece as a “self-described hookup queen.”
Bradley does not believe Erdely can right those wrongs.
“She revealed her profound political bias in her first article, as well as a fatal lack of professionalism,” wrote Bradley at his blog “Shots in the Dark.”
“Anything she might produce under such circumstances shouldn’t be trusted any more than her original article,” he continued, speculating that Erdely is re-reporting the article on her own.
“If you’re Rolling Stone, there’s no way you want her making telephone calls and representing your magazine now,” wrote Bradley, also scoffing at the term “re-reporting,” which he claims “is not a common or even known term in journalism.”
It is unclear whether Erdely is working on behalf of Rolling Stone while re-reporting the piece. Neither Erdely nor Rolling Stone managing editor Will Dana responded to requests for comment.
“Rubin Erdely should let other reporters do the job at which she failed,” Bradley wrote. “Instead, she should be busy writing an apology — and, in my opinion, a resume.”
Kevin Z. Smith, a past president of the Society of Professional Journalists and a member of its ethics commission, said that if Rolling Stone is letting Erdely re-trace her own steps, the magazine could be indicating that it feels Erdely was snookered by Jackie.
“It signals that [Rolling Stone] thinks the source is more to blame for the story collapsing than the reporter,” Smith told TheDC.
“I think from a management position that would be a tough call to make, legal and ethics aside,” he said. “You are essentially saying that you have faith in a reporter to accurately report a story after it’s been determined that she didn’t so the first time.”
“Should the person who ran afoul of procedures and ethics be allowed to return to the scene and play it all over again?” Smith wondered. “Ethically, I can see a conflict in appearance, at least.”