When should journalists use pseudonyms in stories? Never

The Buttry Diary

A key issue in the Columbia School of Journalism’s report on Rolling Stone‘s botched rape story is the use of pseudonyms to identify key characters in the story.

I strongly endorse this conclusion of the Columbia report:

Pseudonyms are inherently undesirable in journalism. They introduce fiction and ask readers to trust that this is the only instance in which a publication is inventing details at its discretion. Their use in this case was a crutch — it allowed the magazine to evade coming to terms with reporting gaps. Rolling Stone should consider banning them.

I made a similar point in December in my post (after the story began falling apart) about interviewing rape survivors and verifying their stories:

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