Evelyn McDonnell, the San Pedro journalist and professor at Loyola Marymount University, wrote the highly regarded 2013 book "Queens of Noise: The Real Story of the Runaways." Her book does not include the revelation that band member Jackie Fuchs was raped in front of numerous witnesses, including her bandmates, by Kim Fowley, the LA music scene figure who created the Runaways in the Valley in the mid-1970s. That kind of scoopage is a horrible feeling for a reporter, and in a lengthy online statement this afternoon, McDonnell explains why it might sting a bit more in this case. She writes that she had extensive conversations about the rape with sources for her book, including with band members, and that no one went on the record saying that the target was Fuchs. The silent ones included Fuchs herself, leaving McDonnell no choice but to leave out some of what she knew or suspected.
Among her journalism principles, she writes, are you don't out rape victims and you don't betray promises of confidentiality. So her book does not include the big reveal that Fuchs and investigative reporter Jason Cherkis put on a Huffington Post site this week.
McDonnell's comment is understandably somewhat defensive. She makes the point that the revelation is not completely new and alleges that the tone of the HuffPost piece is sensationalized. (I disagree on that point.) But she may have a legitimate bone to pick with Cherkis, the Huffington Post investigative reporter. She unpacks her case in the statement. Here's an except:
The story of Kim Fowley sexually abusing a young, intoxicated woman in a hotel room after a Runaways show is grim and horrifying. I would like to say it has knocked many readers into a stunned silence – but in these days, it instead seems to have ignited a firestorm. I personally need more time with the story to say all that I want to say. But I know that the Internet waits for no one (and is woefully unavailable where I am currently living!), so here are some of my current thoughts….
On New Year’s Eve 1975 Jackie Fox had an experience that damaged her psyche and changed her life. Her perception of what happened to her is hers and hers alone; it can not be taken from her, and she has now shared it with the world. I am glad she was able to speak out about this. I hope the revelations in “The Lost Girls” will help her heal and move on, and that it will inspire other women to come to terms with their own experiences. Jackie is a genius – literally – and a beautiful and talented woman. What happened to her is unconscionable.
However, I have issues with the story’s sometimes sensationalist tone, the reporter’s methods, and some of the response to it online – particularly the way other women tangential to this story (including Joan Jett and myself) are also being targeted and blamed, by men.
Cherkis deserves credit for getting Jackie and others to tell her story. However, I take serious issue with the way he has positioned himself as the oracle savior of the Runaways, and specifically attacked me as an apologist for Fowley. He repeatedly cites my book without ever naming me as the author. He never called me for a comment. He did call me a few months ago saying he wanted to write something about the Runaways in conjunction with Joan’s induction into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame. I knew that Jackie sometimes blogged for the HP; I also knew that she was looking for a reporter to talk to about something, she wouldn’t tell me what, exactly. I asked Jason if he had talked with Jackie. He said no. I suggested he do so. Jason has now said online that he was already in contact with Jackie when he called me. Cherkis also asked me for a source’s phone number. ...Although I did not know him at all, I attempted to help him as a colleague. In return, he exploited my research in his article and has repeatedly attacked me online. The irony of this male bullying in the context of this story has not been lost on me, or on many other journalists who have rallied to support me. Cherkis’s unprofessionalism in my brief encounter with him casts a shadow over “The Lost Girls.” I wonder who else he misled.
Male bullying? Not sure I see a gender issue here, but your mileage may differ. The ultimate burn for McDonnell, as it would be for me or any author in her shoes, is that when Fuchs decided to tell her story, she chose for whatever reason to take it to a different reporter. That has to hurt.