Rolling Stone loses defamation lawsuit over 'A Rape on Campus' article

Rolling Stone loses defamation lawsuit over 'A Rape on Campus' article

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Image: Rolling stone
2016%2f09%2f16%2f8f%2fhttpsd2mhye01h4nj2n.cloudfront.netmediazgkymde1lza3.08e29By Jason Abbruzzese2016-11-04 18:41:44 UTC

Rolling Stone crossed the line in its now-retracted story about sexual assault on the campus of the University of Virginia. Now, it will have to pay.

A jury on Friday found that the magazine had committed defamation against a former UVa associate dean, who had been portrayed negatively in the article "A Rape on Campus." Wenner Media, the owner of Rolling Stone, as well as the author of the story were also found liable.

The jury also said that the author, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, committed actual malice — an important decision that means the author either reported something knowing it was false or recklessly disregarded whether something was true or false.

Nicole Eramo, the administrator who brought the case, initially sought $7.5 million in damages. The jury will still need to decided on how much it will award her.

The article, published in November 2014, instantly drew widespread attention for its graphic depiction of a sexual assault committed by numerous people against a woman at a fraternity party. The article went on to allege that university administrators, the associate dean in particular, had not responded to the situation. The story was lauded as a realistic portrayal of a problem that has only recently become visible a college campuses across the country.

The admiration was short lived. Other journalist began to investigate some parts of the story and found inconsistencies. Rolling Stone eventually corrected and then entirely retracted the article.

The decision handed down by a federal jury could be the first of many lawsuits brought against the magazine and the article's author.

The damages don't look like they will be quite in the range of the Gawker/Hulk Hogan case, which bankrupted the company and forced it to be sold to the highest bidder.

Still, the magazine could face more lawsuits. The fraternity portrayed in the article already has a case pending.

This is only the beginning for Rolling Stone. Eramo wasn't the only person defamed. The fraternity gets the next bite at the apple.

— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) November 4, 2016

In a statement, Rolling Stone apologized to Eramo.

"In our desire to present this complicated issue from the perspective of a survivor, we overlooked reporting paths and made journalistic mistakes that we are committed to never making again," the statement read. "We deeply regret these missteps and sincerely apologize to anyone hurt by them, including Ms. Eramo."

Topics: Business, Media, rolling stone

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