I worked as a reporter one summer for the City News Bureau, here in Chicago, way back in 1972. I would not call it glamorous, but it had its educational moments. On one of my very first days on the job, there was a story about 2 young women who claimed to have been raped and held overnight.
I thought it was a story to take seriously, but a lot of the older reporters were scornful, assuring me that this was a made-up story, an excuse concocted by the young women as a story to tell their parents about where they had been. As I recall, they turned out to be correct. The young women recanted.
I don't know how the older reporters knew better. Maybe friends on the police force had tipped them. Maybe there were unlikely details in the young women's stories. I don't recall. But I remember being shocked.
Tonight I went to call-backs for Arthur Miller's The Crucible, which is a play about a true event: young women accused other people of witchcraft, leading to the Salem witch trials. There were many unlikely details in the stories that the young women told. But they were believed. For a while. But a lot of people died before the town came to its senses.
It can be a harsh fruit to chew,
but it's something you have to do.
You're crazy if you deny
that people sometimes lie.
Also, today was the day that the Rolling Stone / UVA fraternity-rape story fell apart.
'“In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced,” wrote managing editor Will Dana in “A Note to Our Readers” posted on the magazine’s Web site. (The magazine did not return calls for further comment.)'
Their reporter had failed to check out both sides of the story.
There's an old joke among journalists about the need for verification: "If your mother says she loves, you check it out." Sometimes the joke includes an admonition to come back with at least two other sources establishing the claim of maternal affection.
It may be hoary advice,
but check your story twice.