Saturday, December 06, 2014

Rolling Stone fiasco over UVa story has a lesson for bloggers; more on embeds


After the University of Virginia in Charlottesville put the (at least temporary) brakes on fraternities after a Rolling Stone story, questions have arisen about the accuracy of the story.  Paul Fahri in the Washington Post writes today in the Style section, “A failure to follow tenets of reporting”, link here. Onine his title is more telling: “Author of Rolling Stone article on U. va. Rape didn’t talk to accused perpetrators.”  Fahri discusses the responsibilities of journalists for basic fact checking after getting a scoop for a controversial story, particularly for playing “devil’s advocate” as to credibility. 
  
Rolling Stone has issued an apology concerning the story (“A Rape on Campus”) by Sabrina Rubin Erderly, link here and admits to the possibility of discrepancies in “Jackie’s” account.  RS even updated its apology with a fourth paragraph!
  
  
How does this lesson apply to “amateur” bloggers?  I do try to report news that I uncover myself, and, yes, I am aware of the need to question the credibility of information that may come my way.  There can be legal consequences, of course, for not doing so.  I think a more testing question comes up with reporting a story that appears in some media but that hasn’t been widely reported everywhere.  These sorts of stories my get more page requests, but they may involve more risk.  As I’ve reported before, there is some controversy over whether hyperlinking to a false defamatory story could involve a secondary liability risk.  Usually, no, but sometimes it has.  As with a recent somewhat dubious story on one Washington DC television station about a supposed incident in a gay bar, I did provide the link but also questioned whether the story was likely to be correct as reported.  
   
You could say the same about some of the reporting about police misbehavior and the public outcry and demonstrations.  In the beginning, there just was not enough attention given to the possibility that police officer Darren Wilson’s account might actually be correct.  Why it’s clear that there are serious problems with police behavior with minorities and criminal justice procedures (especially the way grand juries work – and that could affect me some day if I get called to be on one), the destructive (and indignant) behavior after especially the Ferguson case is totally unwarranted by the real facts.  
I also want to take a moment to update a story about embeds and copyright.  I had given reference to an Ars Technica article by Tim Lee on the subject on an April 10, 2014 posting; there is a more recent article in August from the Seventh Circuit here. But this subject needs to be watched carefully.   

I still notice that occasionally, embeds of videos that look OK to me at first stop working quickly because of copyright claims, which are hard to predict.  

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