Pseudonyms, Sources, and Jon Krakauer’s ‘Missoula’

Photo by Hades2k, Flickr

Only one of the rape victims in Krakauer’s book, “Cecilia Washburn,” is identified with a pseudonym. “And I didn’t interview her,” Krakauer said. (Krakauer says he discussed the possibility of an interview with Washburn’s attorney multiple times, but she replied each time that her client likely would not consent to an interview.) The rest of the victims identified in Missoula spoke with him and consented to having their names used. Krakauer offered each victim he interviewed an opportunity before publication to review each chapter in which she appeared. If a victim changed her mind about participating, then Krakauer promised to remove all mentions of her from the book—a way of giving victims the control over their stories that judicial systems sometimes deny.

Krakauer also described for each victim he interviewed some of his own reporting practices and boundaries. “I told each of them, very explicitly, that except for withdrawal or correcting errors that clearly needed to be corrected, they would have absolutely no right to determine what I wrote about them,” Krakauer wrote during a follow-up. “I explicitly told each of them that if I discovered they had not been truthful, I would report it in the book. I also made it explicitly clear that I would try to get each of their alleged assailants to tell me his side of the story, and I would be including both sides in the book.”

Brendan Fitzgerald writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the scrutiny of reporters who cover rape and Jon Krakauer’s new book “Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town.”

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