“The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.”
― Thomas Jefferson

Columbia Journalism School Releases its Defense of Rolling Stone
And, to no one's surprise, gets almost as many facts wrong as Rolling Stone

In its long-awaited judgment of Sabrina Rubin Erdely's UVA hatchet job in Rolling Stone, the Columbia Journalism School offers a full-throated defense of Sabrina, Jackie, and the piece in Rolling Stone which has become a feminist touchstone despite the fact that it's--verifiably--100% false.

Here are just a few notes, written within the first hour of Columbia's post.  Notably, the piece takes Sabrina's words as gospel, time and again, without doing--you guessed it--fact checking:

“I was shocked to have a story that was going to go viral in this way,” Erdely said. “My phone was ringing off the hook.” The online story ultimately attracted more than 2.7 million views, more than any other feature not about a celebrity that the magazine had ever published.

Preposterous!  Every single aspect of Sabrina's story was carefully engineered to have the maximum impact possible.  Which is the #1 reason why fact checking was permitted to slide: it would compromise the effect that they could achieve through presenting fiction as fact.

Erdely chose this moment to revisit the mystery of the lifeguard who had lured Jackie and overseen her assault. Jackie’s unwillingness to name him continued to bother Erdely. Apparently, the man was still dangerous and at large. “This is not going to be published,” the writer said, as she recalled. “Can you just tell me?”   Jackie gave Erdely a name. But as the reporter typed, her fingers stopped. Jackie was unsure how to spell the lifeguard’s last name. Jackie speculated aloud about possible variations.

“An alarm bell went off in my head,” Erdely said.

Ridiculous!  An alarm bell went off, but didn't change a thing Sabrina did?  Remember what Sabrina actually said after her story had fallen apart:
“I am convinced that it could not have been done any other way, or any better. I am also not interested in diverting the conversation away from the point of the piece itself.”

In other words, exactly the opposite of what she's now claiming. And adds, in classic modern-feminist fashion: "You're only allowed to talk about what I want you to talk about."

Over the next few days, worried about the integrity of her story, the reporter investigated the name Jackie had provided, but she was unable to confirm that he worked at the pool, was a member of the fraternity Jackie had identified or had other connections to Jackie or her description of her assault. She discussed her concerns with her editors.

 Nonsense!  She didn't lift a finger to contact anyone--not Ryan, not Alex, not Phi Psi, not Haven Monahan.  At this point, we all know why.

Ultimately, we were too deferential to our rape victim; we honored too many of her requests in our reporting. We should have been much tougher, and in not doing that, we maybe did her a disservice.

Classic!  They did the 'rape victim' (who was not a rape victim) a disservice by believing her.  At this point, CJR and RS have entered a Hall of Mirrors.

“In retrospect, I wish somebody had pushed me harder” about reaching out to the three for their versions, Erdely said. “I guess maybe I was surprised that nobody said, ‘Why haven’t you called them?’

Yes!  It's everyone's fault but mine! I'm just a little lady!

Rolling Stone’s editors did not make clear to readers that Erdely and her editors did not know “Drew’s” true name, had not talked to him and had been unable to verify that he existed.

Wrong! Sean Woods, who edited the Rolling Stone piece, stated explicitly that "we verified their existence" by talking to Jackie's friends. "I’m satisfied that these guys exist and are real. We knew who they were."  Never mind that 'these guys' never even existed.

Rolling Stone’s senior editors are unanimous in the belief that the story’s failure does not require them to change their editorial systems. “It’s not like I think we need to overhaul our process, and I don’t think we need to necessarily institute a lot of new ways of doing things,” Dana said. “We just have to do what we’ve always done..."

So...not a word about the actual damage they did, not a single apology, not only no pledge to do better but a 'unanimous', in-your-face declaration they they are blameless. And from CJR, not a single word about all of the other fabrications in Sabrina's article.

My verdict? A complete disgrace. If this isn't the final death knell for traditional journalism in our age, I don't know what could be.

M.C. -- Sunday, Apr 5, 2015

Addendum, 8 April 2015:
A more thorough and considered take on the same report from a professional journalist, not incidentally the one who broke the story of this colossal fraud open in the first place: Richard Bradley

What say you?

comments powered by Disqus

Web Hosting