He Had a New Scoop on R. Kelly. One Problem

Jim DeRogatis describes the long and winding path to BuzzFeed
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 14, 2019 11:05 AM CDT
Updated Jun 16, 2019 1:00 PM CDT
He Had a New Scoop on R. Kelly. One Problem
Singer R. Kelly pleaded not guilty to 11 additional sex-related felonies during a court hearing before Judge Lawrence Flood at Leighton Criminal Court Building Thursday, June 6, 2019 in Chicago.   (E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool)

When it comes to major scoops, Jim DeRogatis has had a few. The music critic famously received a fax in November 2000 that made a detailed but anonymous allegation: "Robert’s problem is young girls." Robert, in this case, was R. Kelly, and the story the Chicago Sun-Times published six weeks later made waves. Sixteen years after that, DeRogatis got an email, this time from a mother who accused the singer of running a "sex cult" outside Atlanta that had reeled in her daughter; another set of parents subsequently made the same claim, and another 10 sources—all on the record—backed them up. DeRogatis eventually published his piece on BuzzFeed. But the path to get there was onerous.

"Despite the evidence I compiled, the story about Kelly’s cult proved more difficult to publish than any in my career, and that period provides a case study of the troubled state of journalism circa 2017," he writes in an excerpt from Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly published on BuzzFeed. He worked with three news outlets: MTV News, the Chicago Reader, and WBEZ each agreed to publish the story, and in each case, more reporting, fact-checking, editing, and legal reviews occurred. But insurmountable roadblocks appeared each time, from legal qualms to misgivings about the level of sourcing, and after 9 months the story still had no home. He took it to BuzzFeed on a Thursday, and after some intense fact-checking and editing, it ran on Monday. What happened next? Read the full excerpt at BuzzFeed. (More Longform stories.)

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