September 5, 2015

TRYING TO AVOID EMBARRASSMENT: Rolling Stone files motion for protective order in Virginia dean’s defamation case.

Lawyers for Rolling Stone magazine yesterday entered a motion aimed at limiting the amount of information and documents disclosed in the ongoing defamation case filed this year by Nicole Eramo, a University of Virginia associate dean whose actions were depicted in the November 2014 Rolling Stone story “A Rape on Campus.” That story, which narrated an alleged gang rape at a campus fraternity house, was later exposed as a fraud, prompting a review by the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and a retraction.

Though the Columbia report laid bare the faulty editorial procedures behind “A Rape on Campus,” written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely (a named defendant in Eramo’s suit), Rolling Stone is apparently seeking to limit how much more information can leak into the public realm through this proceeding. “The Parties acknowledge that disclosure and discovery activity in this litigation is likely to include production of confidential, proprietary, or private information for which special protection from public disclosure and from use for any purpose other than prosecuting this litigation may be warranted,” reads the proposed protective order. Though Eramo’s legal team isn’t opposing the order, it comes at the behest of Rolling Stone.

The proposal would secure confidentiality for disclosures that fall into any one of several baskets, including information whose release is barred by statute, trade secrets or “commercially sensitive” information, “unpublished newsgathering materials” and “information of a personal or intimate nature regarding any individual.” For the consideration of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, the Erik Wemple Blog has a great interest in “unpublished newsgathering materials.” We oppose this motion!

The protective order would “survive” the litigation and could be undone only by a court order or a request from one of the parties.

I think all this information is a matter of great public interest, and it’s very important that it be made public.

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