This version, to put it mildly, makes no sense. Jackie was so afraid of Drew that she forbade Erdely from contacting him—but wasn’t so afraid of him as to accuse him as a brutal rapist in a national magazine? Indeed, the portrayal comes across as Jackie (and Erdely) afraid that speaking to the accused student might undercut Rolling Stone’s preferred storyline of widespread campus rapes, a storyline that Erdely herself told Farhi she had been pursuing for months.
Perhaps that’s why, in a podcast with with Slate’s Hanna Rosin, Erdely didn’t mention this journalistically troubling agreement. Five times Rosin asked Erdely (in different ways) whether she had contacted the accused students and what their response was. Five times Erdely sidestepped the question—talking about her contacts with UVA administrators, or with the national branch of the fraternity. She simply refused to say why she hadn’t performed elementary due diligence and sought to speak to the student she had portrayed as a monster—even as she conceded to Rosin that lots of people on campus would know the identity of “Drew.”
Then, after Judith Shulevitz was rebuffed in speaking with Erdely (based on the Rosin interview, it’s easy to see why Rolling Stone wouldn’t want her speaking with a neutral interrogator), the magazine offered editor Woods, who told Shulevitz that Erdely didn’t contact the accused students because, as Shulevitz paraphrased, “This was Jackie’s story, he said; it was clearly presented as such.” But the magazine presented Jackie’s recollections as factual, and a casual (or perhaps even not-so-casual) reader would come away from the article believing that the intent was to detail results of a comprehensive investigation by reporter Erdely, not to present an accuser’s story of what happened.
Shulevitz also reports that “Woods also confirmed that Erdely didn’t contact the alleged rapists out of respect for Jackie’s wishes.” This bombshell appeared nowhere in Rolling Stone’s article. Why did the magazine conceal this unusual arrangement from its readers?