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January 12, 2016

GOOD QUESTION: WaPo: Jackie’s rape story was false. So why hasn’t the media named her by now?

News organizations have declined to reveal Jackie’s full identity since her now-discredited story appeared in Rolling Stone magazine in November 2014. Her single-name identity — just Jackie — is in keeping with a long-standing journalistic convention against identifying alleged victims of sexual crimes to protect the accuser’s privacy.

As a result, news accounts of rape or sex-related crimes almost never name an accuser without their explicit permission, making it the only class of crime involving adults in which this practice is observed.

But that standard arguably doesn’t apply in Jackie’s case. Her story has been shown repeatedly to be false, both through news reporting and an extensive police investigation. Rolling Stone has withdrawn the article, “A Rape on Campus,” and apologized to its readers for publishing an account that a Columbia Journalism School report called “a story of journalistic failure.”

Even so, Jackie has remained nearly anonymous. No mainstream media outlet has reported Jackie’s full name. Investigators for the Charlottesville police, who found no evidence to support Jackie’s story, haven’t revealed it, either. Her identity has also been redacted in documents by a court hearing one of the lawsuits against Rolling Stone.

While it’s debatable whether knowing Jackie’s full name would serve much public purpose, the collective reticence to identify her plays into an underlying discussion about the media’s responsibility in identifying accusers. In contrast, the accused are regularly identified once they are charged.

It’s almost like there’s a war on men.