“It took two years and all this to get an apology and I still don’t believe it is a real apology. The regret I see is that they’re in the position they’re in today.” – Nicole Eramo, former associate Dean of Students at the University of Virginia.
Two years ago Rolling Stone (the magazine) published an article about an alleged gang rape that happened on the University of Virginia’s campus, which intensified attention on sexual assault on college campuses nationwide. The gang rape accusations came from a girl named “Jackie”, in which Rolling Stone never verified the rape actually occurred causing national outrage, but the real kicker is the way Ms. Eramo was portrayed in the article. Jackie claimed that Ms. Eramo said, “Nobody wants to send their daughter to a rape school.” and the article portrayed the university administration as being indifferent to the assault. An assault that never actually happened.
Media intentions are largely about selling a story, but there needs to be a line drawn when that story becomes made up in order to raise awareness about a social issue. Using Kant’s Humanity Formulation, this clearly shows Ms. Eramo as being used as a means to an end in order to sell a false story.
I understand wanting to raise awareness about a social issue especially one as rampant as college sexual assaults, but when it defames not only a university but individual there is no question about it becoming a malicious act of simply using a human being as a means to an end, which Kant states is never supposed to be done.
Rolling Stone was in violation of Kant’s Humanity Formulation, but also ethics as a whole. They had no disregard for how their story would affect the personal and professional life of Ms. Eramo, but also the long term affect is would have on the credibility of Rolling Stone itself, which has been called into question in the past for other numerous scandals.
Once we learn how to treat individuals as intrinsically valuable instead of instrumentally valuable then maybe we can learn how to treat humanity as a whole and better our understanding of what is and is not ethical. Even though media is about selling, there isn’t a part left untouched by ethics as demonstrated by Rolling Stone.