A Reflection on Journalism and Feature Writing

There are many different types of story-telling and, while we deal closely with the literary here, a close friend of ours is journalism: the art of reporting and relaying the stories of those around us. In particular, feature writing in journalism. More often than not, when journalists report on a story, an underlying message, lesson, or theme courses through the veins of the story itself (not unlike literature based stories). Therefore, because the stories journalists tell are true, getting the facts of the story is essential to the hearing and the believing of the story and of the message. Quite recently, a reporter failed to do this when covering an incredibly sensitive topic. Some are calling it the worst case of journalism in 2014, others are calling it a devastation to victims of sexual assault and to those working against rape and rape culture.

The article “A Rape on Campus” by Sabrina Erdely  was published in Rolling Stone magazine in December of last year. In a swiftly evolving series of events, the story unravelled due to large gaps in Erdely’s reporting. In wake of this, the Columbia School of Journalism (an outside resource with no bias) was asked by Rolling Stone to survey the damage. The school investigated and got down to the nitty gritty details of what the magazine did wrong. The result: “Rolling Stone and UVA: The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism Report” a lengthy article that pores over every step Erdely and her superiors took while selecting and investigating the story, editing the work, and publishing the final document. In the Columbia School of Journalism’s words their analysis and publication became, “An anatomy of a journalistic failure.”

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Photo appeared in the article “Rolling Stone and UVA: The Columbia School of Journalism Report” published on the Rolling Stone website.

For me, as a literary student, the story written by Erdely was intensely horrifying and gripping; however, as a journalism student reading the report, the gaps and failures were glaringly obvious. Reading the report in its entirety succeeded in pointing out some very essential aspects to the journalistic method of story-telling. Please read the full report in the link provided above.


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