#MeToo depends on the credibility of the journalists who report on it

But far more commonly, people genuinely believe things that aren’t true or, at least, can’t be corroborated. And thus the industry proverb: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

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As #MeToo has grown, mainstream media outlets have generally been scrupulous about getting that confirmation before they publish. It’s hard to overstate the dangers when that filter fails. When Rolling Stone failed to check allegations about gang rape at the University of Virginia, the magazine both smeared innocent young men and caused other victims to be treated more skeptically. And when a weak story breaks into an already raging political conflagration, it not only creates skepticism under which future abusers can shelter but also threatens to turn #MeToo into yet another divide in the culture wars.

That would be a disaster for the country, and the women in it. Which is why, despite the risk of failing to say something that later turns out to be true, sometimes it’s best to tear up that piece you expected to be able to write.

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