This weekend I traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, for my older sister’s graduation from Rhodes College. While at a reception with my extended family, my uncle asked me about our recent trip to New York City. I started to talk about our trip to Rolling Stone and within seconds of mentioning the name of the magazine, my uncle was firing off questions about that particular visit. He immediately asked if any of us had the audacity to ask about the “Rape On Campus” scandal. Halfway into answering his question, I remembered that my cousin (this uncle’s son) had recently graduated from UVA.
I could see the anger steaming out of my uncle’s ears as we discussed the issues with Rolling Stone’s article. He was frustrated with how Sabrina Erdely had portrayed UVA, where he is a proud parent of a young alum. He also said that he was shocked to hear that Erdely still had a job at Rolling Stone. He told me that he had read the Columbia Journalism Review which critiqued Rolling Stone’s editing and reporting process. He came to the conclusion that there was no editing or fact-checking process at this well respected magazine. He expressed that he didn’t understand how this story could have been passed through so many people with so many errors. Through the eyes of my uncle, it didn’t seem like Rolling Stone was going to recover from this blunder.
After just visiting Rolling Stone and talking to staff member Andy Greene, it was interesting to hear from the other end of the spectrum. Greene had a very positive outlook on the future of the magazine. He said that their way to recover was to keep on going and report on even bigger stories.
I can honestly say that I have never read an issue of Rolling Stone from front to back, or have really even flipped through an issue. But, after discovering the uncertainty of this magazine’s future and reputation, I can say that I will be following this magazine’s upcoming issues.
Frustrated with my lack of responses from people I have tried to contact for information to develop my story in our magazine, I called my dad for advice. He works as a Market Researcher for a consumer electronics company. I told him the three people I needed to contact. He replied, “That’s it?”
He told me that when his company does this sort of information gathering that they will call five and hear back from two. He told me to extend my list of contacts because you won’t hear back from as many as you expect.
Going through this process of reaching out to people has been an experience. I have developed communicative skills and have seen how a magazine business operates. What I have not understood is why companies avoid talking to reporters and press. Coming from the reporting side as a student, my goal is to promote their business, not to criticize them. I would have thought that by prefacing that I am a student working on a prototype magazine for a class, people would have been more lenient and willing to talk to a “reporter.”
— Sidney Sikes