Another claim of shoddy journalism by Sabrina Rubin Erdely and Rolling Stone surfaces

Now comes another accusation that Sabrina Rubin Erdely and Rolling Stone engaged in shoddy journalism, this time in the reporting of an alleged spat of suicides by high school students because of a supposed war on gay teens.

The story (here)  in question is headlined,

One Town’s War on Gay Teens

In Michele Bachmann’s home district, evangelicals have created an extreme anti-gay climate. After a rash of suicides, the kids are fighting back.

Erdely wrote that it was a “suicide epidemic that would take the lives of nine local students in under two years.” She laid the suicides at the feet of evangelicals for “cultivating an extreme anti-gay climate. ”

The charge that Erdely committed major errors in the story came from Laurie Higgins,  the Illinois Family Institute’s Cultural Analyst.

In one of the articles, Higgins notes:

Erdely identifies nine teens who committed suicide over a two-year period. Five of the teens whose names Erdely mentions, however, were neither homosexual nor were they the victims of homosexual epithets. This seems rather like writing an article about deaths caused by smoking and doubling the number of deaths by including deaths wholly unrelated to smoking.

If her article had been about teen suicide in general, then the inclusion of all nine names would be justifiable, but then she should have discussed all the teen suicide risk factors. Since her article was titled “One Town’s War on Gay Teens,” it’s clear that the subject was not teen suicide in general. Readers should be asking why in an article about a purported “war on gay teens” being waged by Evangelicals, Erdely even mentions teens whose suicides were completely unrelated to homosexuality.

Because she’s incompetent? Because she’s so blinded by her ideology that facts don’t matter?

One of those reasons might explain Erdely’s most publicized screw-up, coming in a 9,000-word story, also published by Rolling Stone, that a woman named Jackie was raped by seven members of the Phi Psi fraternity at the University of Virginia. The story created a national uproar about the incidence of  sexual violence committed on campus against women. A storm battered the Phi Psi  House, including it being vandalized.

The police now have cleared the fraternity. As the Washington Post reported yesterday:

A police investigation has cleared a University of Virginia fraternity of any involvement in an alleged gang rape that was detailed in a Rolling Stone magazine story last year, with authorities saying there was “no basis to believe that an incident occurred” at the Phi Kappa Psi house. [Emphasis added.]

U-Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan approved the full reinstatement of the fraternity chapter Monday after police detectives did not find “any substantive basis to confirm that the allegations raised in the article occurred at Phi Kappa Psi,” university officials said. The announcement came as classes here resumed for the spring semester and three days after Sullivan lifted a months-long freeze on campus Greek life.

Higgins accused Erdely and Rolling Stone of similar “flawed and destructive” reporting in the 2012 story. Higgins, in an IFI post details the factual errors–a list that’s too long to reprint here. I encourage you to check it out for yourself and make your own decision.

No doubt some of my readers will pooh-pooh Higgins’ findings because she works with the IFI, which will be branded as an extreme right-wing, homophobic, Christian fringe group. But these same readers, I suspect, have taken the word of Erdely and Rolling Stone as the God’s honest truth.

Related: The school’s response to the Erdely article is here.

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