University of Virginia Administrator Awarded $3 Million in Rolling Stone Magazine’s Fraudulent ‘Gang-Rape’ Defamation Case 

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Eramo sued the magazine for $7.5 million, claiming it cast her as a villain who sought to discourage the woman identified only as Jackie from reporting her alleged assault to police. A police investigation found no evidence to back up Jackie’s rape claims.

Alanna Durkin Richer reports: Jurors awarded a University of Virginia administrator $3 million Monday for her portrayal in a now-discredited Rolling Stone magazine article about the school’s handling of a brutal gang rape a fraternity house.

“The story roiled the University of Virginia campus, prompted calls for Eramo’s resignation and sparked a national conversation about sexual assault at elite institutions. Jackie’s story quick fell apart after reporters from other outlets started asking questions and determined that Rolling Stone never spoke to the woman’s alleged attackers — or even verified their existence — before going to print.”

The 10-member jury’s decision came after they concluded Friday that the magazine, its publisher and reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely were responsible for defamation, with actual malice, of former associate dean of students Nicole Eramo in the 2014 story “A Rape on Campus.”

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“Jurors found that the magazine and its publisher, Wenner Media, acted with actual malice because they republished the article on Dec. 5 with an editor’s note after they knew about the problems with Jackie’s story. The jury also found that Erdely acted with actual malice on six claims: two statements in the article and four statements to media outlets after the story was published.”

Eramo sued the magazine for $7.5 million, claiming it cast her as a villain who sought to discourage the woman identified only as Jackie from reporting her alleged assault to police. A police investigation found no evidence to back up Jackie’s rape claims.

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“Rolling Stone also faces a $25 million lawsuit from Phi Kappa Psi, the fraternity where Jackie claimed her assault took place. That case is schedule to go to trial late next year.”

Jurors heard testimony Monday about the extent to which the story has damaged Eramo’s life and reputation before they began deliberating to decide how much to award her in damages.

[Read the full story here, at ABC News]

Eramo told jurors that after the story’s publication, she had trouble sleeping, feared for her safety and struggled with how to explain what was happening to her then-7-year-old son. One day, she crawled under her desk and contemplated suicide as she felt her world come crashing down around her, she said. Her husband testified that she told him: “I don’t know that I can live anymore.” Read the rest of this entry »


Jury finds Reporter, Rolling Stone Responsible for Defaming University of Virginia Dean with Fictionalized ‘Gang Rape’ story 

Deliberations about ‘A Rape on Campus’ spanned three days.

T. Rees Shapiro reports: A federal court jury decided Friday that a Rolling Stone journalist defamed a former University of Virginia associate dean in a 2014 magazine article about sexual assault on campus that included a debunked account of a fraternity gang rape.

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The 10-member jury concluded that the Rolling Stone reporter, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, was responsible for defamation, with actual malice, in the case brought by Nicole Eramo, a U-Va. administrator who oversaw sexual violence cases at the time of the article’s publication. The jury also found the magazine and its parent company, Wenner Media, responsible for defaming Eramo, who has said her life’s work helping sexual assault victims was devastated as a result of Rolling Stone’s article and its aftermath.

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The lawsuit centered on Erdely’s 9,000-word article titled “A Rape on Campus,” which appeared online in late November 2014 and on newsstands in the magazine’s December 2014 issue. Opening with a graphic depiction of a fraternity gang rape, the story caused an immediate sensation at a time of heightened awareness of campus sexual assault, going viral online and ripping through the U-Va. community.

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But within days of the article’s publication, key elements of the account fell apart under scrutiny, including the narrative’s shocking allegation of a fraternity gang rape. The magazine eventually retracted the story in April 2015, and Eramo’s lawsuit came a month later, alleging that the magazine’s portrayal of her as callous and dismissive of rape reports on campus was untrue and unfair.

University of Virginia administrator Nicole Eramo leaves federal court after closing arguments in her defamation lawsuit against Rolling Stone magazine on Tuesday in Charlottesville. (Steve Helber/AP)

The jurors reached a verdict Friday after deliberating across three days. Eramo has asked for $7.5 million in damages but now, following the verdict, can argue for a different amount. The argument for damages is scheduled to begin Monday.

[Read the full story here, at The Washington Post]

Regardless of potential damages, the verdict showed the jury’s willingness to slam a major media outlet for the impact of getting a story wrong. Originally hailed as a brave triumph of reporting for its raw accounts of rape and attempts at bringing accountability to a storied public university, the article led to protests of the U-Va. administration, vandalism of a campus fraternity and outrage among activists trying to prevent sexual assault. Once its flaws were exposed, the article’s deeper message of the effects of campus rape — a pervasive national problem — was lost amid the allegations of shoddy reporting. Read the rest of this entry »


Will Dana, Rolling Stone’s Managing Editor During University of Virginia Rape Hoax Catastrophe, Suddenly Unemployed

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The magazine commissioned an analysis of the article by the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, and its report in April cited failures at every stage of the reporting process. After the report was made public, Rolling Stone retracted the article.

The magazine has since been the target of lawsuits from an assistant dean at the university and by three members of the fraternity at the center of the article, who filed a defamation lawsuit on Wednesday.

(read more)

The New York Times


Jonah Goldberg: Why Aren’t Heads Rolling at Rolling Stone?

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Ignoring the most basic rules of journalism

Jonah Goldberg writes: Rolling Stone screwed up.

jonah-GIn most media scandals, it’s unfair to paint with such a broad brush. When Stephen Glass concocted his fables at The New Republic, he went to antiheroic lengths to conceal his deceptions from his colleagues. Janet Cooke, who famously won a Pulitzer for her Washington Post series about an Janneight-year-old heroin addict, “Jimmy’s World,” lied to her editors.

“The field of journalistic ethics can get ridiculously Talmudic. But it’s all based on a very simple rule: Tell the truth.”

That’s not the case with Rolling Stone’s publication of “A Rape on Campus,” the story of the brutal gang rape of a student named “Jackie” at the University of Virginia that turned out to be false. Its failure was a group effort, from editor-in-chief Jann Wenner on down.

[Also See – Campus Rape and the ‘Emergency’: It’s Always An Excuse for Authoritarianism]

The best thing you can say about this fiasco is that there was little deliberate lying involved. According to an exhaustive report by the Columbia Journalism School, the article’s author, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, and her editors didn’t purposefully publish falsehoods.

[Read the full text of Jonah Goldberg‘s column here, at National Review]

Of course, this is faint praise. The field of journalistic ethics can get ridiculously Talmudic. But it’s all based on a very simple rule: Tell the truth. If the truth is unclear, tell what you know and give both sides (or as many credible sides to a story as might exist) an opportunity to make their case. (For opinion journalists, like yours truly, the rule is even easier: Don’t say anything you don’t believe.)

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“At every stage, editors and reporters knew what they should do: Talk to the accused rapists, confirm the identities and testimony of alleged witnesses, give the University of Virginia and the leadership of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, where the rape allegedly occurred, a fair opportunity to rebut the charges, nail down corroborating details…”

Rolling Stone ignored this basic rule. At every stage, editors and reporters knew what they should do: Talk to the accused rapists, confirm the identities and testimony of alleged witnesses, give the University of Virginia and the leadership of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, where the rape allegedly occurred, a fair opportunity to rebut the charges, nail down corroborating details, etc.

“And, at almost every turn, they collectively went another way, caving to Jackie’s refusal to help confirm her story.”

And, at almost every turn, they collectively went another way, caving to Jackie’s refusal to help confirm her story.

[Also see – Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s OTHER Possibly Fake Rape Story]

The Columbia report, requested by Rolling Stone and written pro bono by the journalism school’s dean, Steve Coll, and colleagues, has a single major failing. It’s dispositive on the who, what, when, where, and how the system broke down, but it’s remarkably weak on the question of “why?” Read the rest of this entry »


Rolling Stone Fired Editor After Negative Review Of Hootie & the Blowfish Album

RICHMOND, Va. (CBSDC/AP) — Rolling Stone is pledging to review its editorial practices but won’t fire anyone after a leading journalism school issued a blistering critique of how it reported and edited a discredited article about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia.

“The move came Monday, after the weekly New York Observer ran a story saying that Rolling Stone founder-editor Jann Wenner had killed DeRogatis’ negative review of the new Hootie & the Blowfish album and replaced it with a more positive one.” 

Reports are now beginning to surface across social media of former employees getting fired from Rolling Stone, with one senior editor reportedly getting let go following a negative review of a Hootie & The Blowfish album.

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“The Observer story included quotes from DeRogatis implying that Wenner routinely pulls copy that he disagrees with and suggesting that Wenner’s motive for the Hootie change was not to alienate the massively popular band.”

— The Los Angeles Times in 1996

The Columbia Graduate School of Journalism said in the Sunday report that the magazine’s shortcomings “encompassed reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking.”

Two of the report’s authors, dean Steve Coll and academic dean Sheila Coronel, were scheduled to discuss their investigation at a news conference Monday in New York.

“As far as why they fired me, you have to ask them. What they told me is that I’m a bad apple and don’t know anything about music.”

— DeRogatis, to The L.A. Times

The analysis was accompanied by a statement from Rolling Stone Managing Editor Will Dana apologizing for the failures and retracting the November 2014 story. Some University of Virginia students said none of that will erase the article’s repercussions.

Maggie Rossberg, a second-year nursing student from Crozet, Virginia, said her chief concern is the effect the journalistic lapses will have on rape victims. “This is probably going to discourage other sexual assault survivors from coming forward,” Rossberg said.

The Columbia review was undertaken at Rolling Stone’s request and posted on both organizations’ websites. It presented a broad indictment of the magazine’s handling of a story that had horrified readers, unleashed protests at the university’s Charlottesville campus and sparked a national discussion about sexual assaults on college campuses.

“I think the real casualty of the report is the University of Virginia’s trust in journalism. I don’t think any University of Virginia student going through this will ever read an article the same way.”

— Abraham Axler of New York City, president of the university’s Student Council

It came two weeks after the Charlottesville police department said it had found no evidence to back the claims of the victim, identified in the story only as “Jackie,” who said she was raped by seven men at a fraternity house. Read the rest of this entry »


REWIND: Author of Discredited Rolling Stone UVA Rape Story Will Apologize Tonight

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 writes: Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the author of Rolling Stone‘s much-maligned story about a gang rape at the University of Virginia, plans to formally apologize for her mistakes, according to CNN‘s Brian Stetler.

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Erdely stopped responding to questions and interview requests at the beginning of December, as reporters began to call into question the details of the story. (Richard Bradley and I were the first to do so.) Since then, the story has completely collapsed and was essentially confirmed as false by The Washington Post and the Charlottesville police department.

Erdely plans to break her silence tonight, according to The Daily Caller:

But now, according to CNN’s Brian Stelter, Erdely plans to make a public apology nearly four months after Rolling Stone’s retraction. Her apology appears to be timed to coincide with the release of a Columbia School of Journalism report on Rolling Stone’s journalistic failings….(read more) Read the rest of this entry »


Victim Advocates Worry That Journalism Based on Facts Could Hurt Their Movement

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Rolling Stone‘s Worrisome Discredited Rape Account

BALTIMORE — With the account of an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia debunked by police, advocates for sexual assault survivors are worried a movement that gained tremendous momentum in the past year could suffer a setback.

“The average American might say, ‘If she lied, they must all be lying so we shouldn’t pay attention to the issue at all,’ and there will be an immediate chilling effect.”

— Liz Seccuro, explaining her sincere belief that Americans, after encountering one debunked rape story, will no longer care about potential rape victims and decide to permanently stop paying attention to all rape allegations

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A Rolling Stone article about a student identified only as “Jackie” described an alleged rape on campus and a culture of binge-drinking and looking the other way when students filed sexual assault complaints. The story intensified the national conversation about rapes on college campuses and prompted changes at the university, but on Monday, Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo said a months-long investigation turned up no evidence of a sexual assault, or any wrongdoing by the school.

“I do think, unfortunately, that such a high-profile discredited story will have negative impacts on people’s willingness to believe survivors when they come forward.”

— Daniel Carter, director of 32 National Campus Safety Initiative, missing the ‘positive impact’ of honest, fact-based reporting, compared to the ‘negative impact’ of corrupt, dishonest, agenda-driven reporting by Rolling Stone

“One false report should not diminish the seriousness with which we take on the challenge of sexual assault on campus,” said Daniel Carter, director of 32 National Campus Safety Initiative and an advocate for sexual assault survivors for more than two decades. “I do think, unfortunately, that such a high-profile discredited story will have negative impacts on people’s willingness to believe survivors when they come forward.”

Police said Jackie refused to talk to them after the article was published in November. In the article, Jackie said she was gang-raped by seven men at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house two years earlier, and the school systematically mishandled sex assault complaints. Read the rest of this entry »


Wendy Kaminer: The Progressive Ideas Behind the Lack of Free Speech on Campus

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How did we get here? How did a verbal defense of free speech become tantamount to a hate crime and offensive words become the equivalent of physical assaults?

Wendy Kaminer writes: Is an academic discussion of free speech potentially traumatic? A recent panel for Smith College alumnae aimed at “challenging the ideological echo chamber” elicited this ominous “trigger/content warning” when a transcript appeared in the campus newspaper: “Racism/racial slurs, ableist slurs, antisemitic language, anti-Muslim/Islamophobic language, anti-immigrant language, sexist/misogynistic slurs, references to race-based violence, references to antisemitic violence.”

No one on this panel, in which I participated, trafficked in slurs. So what prompted the warning?

“Self-appointed recovery experts promoted the belief that most of us are victims of abuse, in one form or another. They broadened the definition of abuse to include a range of common, normal childhood experiences, including being chastised or ignored by your parents on occasion….”

Smith President Kathleen McCartney had joked, “We’re just wild and crazy, aren’t we?” In the transcript, “crazy” was replaced by the notation: “[ableist slur].”

One of my fellow panelists mentioned that the State Department had for a time banned the words “jihad,” “Islamist” and “caliphate” — which the transcript flagged as “anti-Muslim/Islamophobic language.”

“From this perspective, we are all fragile and easily damaged by presumptively hurtful speech, and censorship looks like a moral necessity.”

I described the case of a Brandeis professor disciplined for saying “wetback” while explaining its use as a pejorative. The word was replaced in the transcript by “[anti-Latin@/anti-immigrant slur].” Discussing the teaching of “Huckleberry Finn,” I questioned the use of euphemisms such as “the n-word” and, in doing so, uttered that forbidden word. I described what I thought was the obvious difference between quoting a word in the context of discussing language, literature or prejudice and hurling it as an epithet.41dpsNZmcnL._SL250_

[Check out Wendy Kaminer’s book “Fearful Freedom: Women’s Flight from Equality” at Amazon]

Two of the panelists challenged me. The audience of 300 to 400 people listened to our spirited, friendly debate — and didn’t appear angry or shocked. But back on campus, I was quickly branded a racist, and I was charged in the Huffington Post with committing “an explicit act of racial violence.” McCartney subsequently apologized that “some students and faculty were hurt” and made to “feel unsafe” by my remarks.

Unsafe? These days, when students talk about threats to their safety and demand access to “safe spaces,” they’re often talking about the threat of unwelcome speech and Tall-censorship-campusdemanding protection from the emotional disturbances sparked by unsettling ideas. It’s not just rape that some women on campus fear: It’s discussions of rape. At Brown University, a scheduled debate between two feminists about rape culture was criticized for, as the Brown Daily Herald put it, undermining “the University’s mission to create a safe and supportive environment for survivors.” In a school-wide e-mail, Brown President Christina Paxon emphasized her belief in the existence of rape culture and invited students to an alternative lecture, to be given at the same time as the debate. And the Daily Herald reported that students who feared being “attacked by the viewpoints” offered at the debate could instead “find a safe space” among “sexual assault peer educators, women peer counselors and staff” during the same time slot. Presumably they all shared the same viewpoints and could be trusted not to “attack” anyone with their ideas.

How did we get here? How did a verbal defense of free speech become tantamount to a hate crime and offensive words become the equivalent of physical assaults?

You can credit — or blame — progressives for this enthusiastic embrace of censorship. It reflects, in part, the influence of three popular movements dating back decades: the feminist anti-porn crusades, the pop-psychology recovery movement and the emergence of multiculturalism on college campuses.

“You can credit — or blame — progressives for this enthusiastic embrace of censorship. It reflects, in part, the influence of three popular movements dating back decades: the feminist anti-porn crusades, the pop-psychology recovery movement and the emergence of multiculturalism on college campuses.”

In the 1980s, law professor Catharine MacKinnon and writer Andrea Dworkin showed the way, popularizing a view of free speech as a barrier to equality. These two impassioned feminists framed pornography — its production, distribution and consumption — as an assault on women. Read the rest of this entry »


From Fake Rapes To ‘Microaggressions,’ Colleges Have Lost Their Way

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U.S. colleges foster and encourage lynch mobs and thought police in place of actual education. It’s time for serious reform.

 writes: For anyone still keeping up with the University of Virginia’s fraternity gang-rape fiasco, this month brought a bit of good news: the Charlottesville Police Department announced it could find no proof that the alleged gang rape had occurred at Phi Kappa Psi. UVA subsequently reinstated the fraternity after having shut it down a few months before.

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“Unsurprisingly, much of this bankrupt ideology centers on feminism, which has filled the role that eugenics once filled in American universities: a crystalline instance of peak Progressive thought animated by bigotry and pseudoscience.”

This is small comfort to a debacle that has been both shameful and injudicious from start to finish. If there is anything good to be had from the entire mess, it is that a slapdash and irresponsible publication has been justly humiliated, and that an incompetent and malicious journalist has been perhaps permanently outcast from the good graces of the Fourth Estate. So far as I can tell, Sabrina Rubin Erdely has not been heard from publicly since last tweeting at the end of November. That is fine by me; indeed, if she finishes out her career as an obscure copy editor at a small-town bi-weekly, I do not think journalism as a whole will be worse off, even if the small-town bi-weekly suffers.

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“Modern feminism drove much of the witch hunt on UVA’s campus, for instance, and it can be seen at plenty of other colleges, as well.”

Yet the Rolling Stone fiasco is on the main depressing and discouraging, if for no other reason than it has starkly highlighted the fundamental hollowness of our institutions of higher learning, saturated as they have become by the often-toxic influence of academic leftism.

A Microcosm of U.S. Colleges’ Sick Culture

Indeed, UVA provided a perfect example of the moral bankruptcy one often finds at the average American college. In the wake of the Rolling Stone article, the university suspended Greek life on campus with no due process whatsoever; a University of Virginia law school student demanded that Phi Kappa Psi be treated as a “criminal street gang” subject to asset seizure by the government; the fraternity house was vandalized; and effectively the entire university lined up against a group of young men who had been viciously slandered in a national media outlet based on the strength of one uncorroborated and unexamined accusation. “The whole [fraternity] culture,” claimed UVA English professor Alison Booth, with no irony whatsoever, “is sick.”

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From its administration to its faculty to its studentry, the University of Virginia displayed the aplomb of a sulky teenager unwilling to think critically about even the most basic of ethical considerations.

“From coast to coast, the vanities of progressivism are having a profoundly negative effect on our institutions of higher learning.”

The University of Virginia, in other words, behaved shamefully and with no civic decorum: from its administration to its faculty to its studentry, the entire institution displayed the aplomb of a sulky teenager unwilling to think critically about even the most basic of ethical considerations. UVA’s president, Teresa Sullivan, should be apologizing profusely to the members of Phi Kappa Psi along with the whole fraternity community. Instead, she’s forcing fraternities to adopt pointless new rules on the basis of a single allegation that even the police now dispute.

Read the rest of this entry »


SPIKED: Rolling Stone‘s Rape Hoax Speaks to a New Hysteria on U.S. College Campuses

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The Unravelling of the Rolling Stone Article is Not an Isolated Event

Sean Collins reports: For years now, academics and activists, backed by university administrators and government officials, have promoted the idea that there is a rape epidemic on US campuses, enabled by a ‘rape culture’ that pervades social life. This notion has created a frenzied and highly emotional atmosphere in colleges, with accusations flying and campus tribunals handing down sentences for what are essentially criminal acts. The stunning news that Rolling Stone now disowns its story that claimed a female student was gang-raped at a University of Virginia (UVA) fraternity shows that the drive to root out ‘rape culture’ is spinning out of control.

“We’re living through a full-blown panic, akin to the daycare sexual abuse scandals of the 1980s and early 1990s, with bad consequences for both women and men.”

The Rolling Stone article, written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, described in graphic terms how a young woman, ‘Jackie’, was lured by her date to a room in a fraternity, where she was allegedly raped by seven men, as part of a premeditated initiation ceremony. The terrible details included: smashing Jackie through a plate-glass table, cutting her badly; the men laughing in response to her cries, and saying things like ‘grab its motherfucking leg’; the men calling each other names like Armpit and Blanket. Appearing after a three-hour ordeal, three friends discourage Jackie from reporting this to the police or the university, or from going to a hospital, because they fear they will be banned from future parties at this fraternity. Read the rest of this entry »


FULL DEMISE: Rolling Stone’s Cuckoo Bananas Rape Story Exposed as Fraud

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Erik Wemple reports: Even as Rolling Stone’s Nov. 19 story “A Rape on Campus” unraveled last week, the magazine claimed that writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely did her due diligence in investigating an alleged gang rape on Sept. 28, 2012, at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at the University of Virginia that had victimized a then-freshman by the name of Jackie. “Dozens” of Jackie’s friends, Rolling Stone told this blog, had spoken with Erdely for the story — some off the record, some on the record.

“Dozens,” of course, means 24-plus.

“Publications can be excused for getting things wrong; that happens all the time. What’s inexcusable, however, is that in this case, Rolling Stone did nothing to stave off catastrophic error…”

As a second heavily reported story by Washington Post’s local staff has revealed, however, Erdely’s reportorial sweep didn’t net three rather critical friends. “Randall,” “Cindy” and “Andy” were identified in the Rolling Stone piece as three eager helpers who came to Jackie’s aid on the night of Sept. 28, 2012, when she allegedly experienced a traumatic situation. The three told The Post that the story reported by Rolling Stone doesn’t match what Jackie told them that night.*

“As The Post reports, the friends were “never contacted or interviewed by the pop culture magazine’s reporters or editors,” meaning that neither Erdely nor the magazine’s fact-checkers lifted a finger to check with the story’s most obvious source of corroboration.”

And perhaps most critically, the latest revelation from The Post casts either account into doubt, as the man that Jackie cited as her date that night appears not to have been a student at the University of Virginia.

“What’s the excuse for the failure to reach the friends? We’ve asked for an explanation on this front as well…”

It all raises a mind-boggling possibility: that Erdely made an exhaustive effort to interview peripheral sources, leaving no time for the central ones. The Erik Wemple Blog has asked Rolling Stone for an inventory of the friends interviewed by Erdely, as well as other information about the reporting. That’s an extravagant request — but presumably Rolling Stone is already compiling such a file, if it’s serious about figuring out how it produced the shoddiest piece of journalism in recent memory. We haven’t heard back from the magazine. Read the rest of this entry »


Cuckoo Journalism for a Tweetable Time

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Edward Kosner writes: Desperate times call forth desperate journalism. Suddenly, what we used to think of as the big-time press is being convulsed by a spasm of amateurism.stock-footage-animated-angry-cuckoo-clock-bird

Rolling Stone, since the 1960s a paragon of hip investigative journalism and gonzo reportage, finds itself sweatily backpedaling from a single-sourced exposé of gang rape at the University of Virginia, an article that rattled the campus designed by Thomas Jefferson and went viral.

The 30-something Facebook zillionaire who bought the New Republic two years ago decided to convert the century-old journal of political and arts commentary into “a vertically integrated digital media company.” The two top editors quit as they were being pushed—and nearly all their staff and 51GQLlXkr7L._SL250_contributors followed them out the door, devastating the magazine.

[Order Edward Kosner‘s book “News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist” from Amazon]

Not long ago, Newsweek resurrected itself in print after a near-death experience. Its very first cover story claimed to identify the mysterious Asian creator of bitcoin, the brave new digital currency—only to have the putative inventor surface to insist persuasively that the magazine had the right name, but the wrong man. And the vastly experienced author of a new 500-page biography of Bill Cosby managed to blow the lead: to leave out detailed accusations by more than a dozen women that the beloved comedian had drugged and raped or otherwise sexually molested them.

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Inevitably in any journalistic trend story, there is an element of coincidence in the cascade of these sorry episodes. And, even in the best-run publications, mistakes are as inescapable in journalism as they are in any sustained human activity. But there is ancuckoo-clock-tatoo unseen common denominator to all these fiascoes that helps explain why they happened, illuminating both the existential dangers that serious journalism now faces and its fraught future.

“Here was a story made to go viral—doing journalistic due diligence on it might blunt its sharp edges and sap its appeal. As it happened, the Rolling Stone piece was undone by old-school reporting by the Washington Post, which has the resources to do its job…”

Quite simply, print editors and their writers, and especially the publications’ proprietors, are being unhinged by the challenge of making a splash in a new world increasingly dominated by twitterthe values of digital journalism. Traditional long-form journalism—painstakingly reported, carefully written, rewritten and edited, scrupulously fact-checked—finds itself fighting a losing battle for readers and advertisers. Quick hits, snarky posts and click-bait in the new, ever-expanding cosmos of websites promoted by even quicker teasers on Twitter and Facebook have broadened the audience but shrunk its attention span, sometimes to 140 characters (shorter than this sentence).

Whether they realize it or not, and most do, print journalists feel the pressure to make their material ever more compelling, to make it stand out amid the digital chatter. The easiest way to do that is to come up with stories so sensational that even the Twitterverse has to take notice. Read the rest of this entry »


Rolling Stone‘s Fabricated Panic of the Year: Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s Fiction Unmasked

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The Washington Post has an update on Rolling Stone‘s UVA story that strongly implies, without outright saying so, that the gang rape at the center of Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s article might be fabricated. Post reporter T. Rees Shapiro spoke at length with the three friends who met up with Jackie, the student who says she was raped, on the night in question. In the Rolling Stone story this scene was crucial. Erdely described Jackie as standing mute in her bloody dress, the Phi Kappa Psi house where the alleged rape happened looming in the background, as her friends callously debated whether they should take her to the hospital and risk ruining their social reputations. This set up the larger theme of a university culture and social scene indifferent even toAPPROVED-STAMP-panic-red the most brutalized victims of rape.

“Jackie’s friends could never find this junior in the UVA database nor on social media. She provided her friends with a picture of him, but the Post has since learned that the guy in the picture is a high school classmate of Jackie’s who does not go to the University of Virginia and was in another state…”

Earlier, those friends told the Post that Jackie told them she’d been forced to have oral sex—a much different story than what Jackie told Rolling Stone. This new Post article adds some details that make the entire account seem more suspicious. Jackie had told her friends—referred to by the pseudonyms “Cindy,” “Andy,” and “Randall” in the original story and in the Post’s follow-ups—that she had a date on Sept. 28, 2012, with a handsome junior in her chemistry class. (In the version she told to Rolling Stone, that date was with someone she’d met at her lifeguarding job.) But in the Post story, the friends imply that this junior might not exist and may have been invented by Jackie to make Randall jealous.non-stop-panic-pearls

“Jackie has now given her friends two different names for the man she was with that night. Neither of them was in fact with her, ever dated her, or even knew her all that well. She appears to have invented a suitor, complete with fake text messages and a fake photo, which suggests a capacity for somewhat elaborate deception.”

When the friends first heard about this junior, they were intrigued and asked Jackie for his number. They started exchanging text messages with him, and he described Jackie as a “super smart hot” freshman. He complained, though, that she liked a “nerd 1st yr”— meaning Randall—who is “smart and funny and worth it.” Jackie’s friends could never find this junior in the UVA database nor on social media. She provided her friends with a picture of him, but the Post has since learned that the guy in the picture is a high school classmate of Jackie’s who does not go to the University of Virginia and was in another state participating in an athletic tournament on the night of the alleged rape. (More recently, Jackie gave her friends the name of a different guy. The Post also contacted him, and he said he’d never met Jackie.)

The Post story doesn’t connect all the dots, but it’s not hard to do. Read the rest of this entry »


Quietly, Quietly, Rolling Stone Changes Its Rape Story Apology

Shhh

Major changes appeared Saturday in Rolling Stone’s apology for a widely-read story alleging a female student was gang raped at the University of Virginia.

The original three-paragraph note was published Friday and came in the wake of a storm of criticism over Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s story about an unidentified student named “Jackie.” The note concluded with a paragraph that said “discrepancies” in Jackie’s story had appeared and that the magazine “misplaced” its trust in her.

But Saturday, much of that language was suddenly missing, despite the post’s continued publication date of Dec. 5 and without mention of an update or correction. The new concluding paragraph acknowledged that the magazine made mistakes, then said “these mistakes are on Rolling Stone, not on Jackie.”

The original version of the note was signed by Will Dana, Rolling Stone’s managing editor. By Saturday, Dana’s signature had disappeared and the note had grown from a total of three paragraphs to four. Read the rest of this entry »


A Campus Epidemic: Rape Hoax Culture

UVa Fraternity

Rolling Stone deserves all the suffering it can possibly enjoy.

editor-commen-deskFriday, December 5th, 2014, may be recorded as the worst single day for Left Wing Media in more than a decade, as two of its most iconic institutions self-destructed, independently, but simultaneously, on the same day, in the same news cycle. The New Republic, and Rolling Stone Magazine, for very different reasons, suffered major setbacks. The more important of the two — The New Republic — is getting less media attention than it deserves. Which is understandable, of the two, its problems are more complex, less visible, and not as controversial. The majority of The New Republic‘s staff resigned, en masse. If almost no one noticed, it’s perhaps because the New Republic isn’t as relevant as it once was. Unfortunate, because of its long history, NR is a first-rate political journal that’s enjoyed the attention and respect of its admirers and critics alike. But mainly because the epic, high-profile disaster at Rolling Stone was sucking up all the oxygen.

And let’s fact it: Rolling Stone deserves all the suffering it can possibly enjoy.

Providing both the matches, and the gas, Rolling Stone willingly made itself into a bonfire for its opponents and critics. A preexisting record of journalistic mismanagement set the stage for disaster. Years of lurid, sensational, sloppy journalism had already established it as a bad actor in media. Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s bogus, discredited rape reportage — though a spectacular failure in itself — isn’t even the problem. It’s a emblematic of larger problem, not just with Rolling Stone, but with Left-Wing advocacy journalism and progressive-activist media culture in general. One of deception, invention, and opportunism.

As the Rolling Stone scandal unfolds, one question that bothers me — that I haven’t seen explored much yet — is, where were the lawyers and editors, before the story went to press? For purely financial reasons, institutions like Rolling Stone have to weight costs and risks, especially when dealing with controversial material that could expose them not only peer scrutiny, but to litigation. That’s what the suits are for. Think about it, if the writer and editor won’t do due diligence with sources, and investigate more than one side of a story, they can be sure their critics will. Writers and editors might be willing to go out on a limb to advance an activist agenda or pump up sales, but every publication has its legal advisors and bean-counters to protect the publication’s reputation, or at least avoid inviting lawsuits. Where were they? What happened?

In the coming days, answers to this question may be revealed. In the meantime, the following is a sampling of commentary from Jonah and Kevin (both of whom are familiar to our readers, and are promoted so frequently here that I take the liberty of referring to them by their first names) at National Review Online. Stay tuned for more.

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Rolling Stone should be held accountable for its false accusations against UVA’s Phi Kappa Psi chapter.

jonah-GFrom Jonah Goldberg‘s The UVA Gang Rape that Wasn’t

“…So I am having a hard time getting my head around something. All week people have been calling me a “rape apologist” and “pro-rape.” I’m being constantly informed that I don’t understand “rape culture.” These often hysterical accusations tend to come from people who seem to understand rape culture the same way some people understand the geopolitics of Westeros or Middle Earth: They’ve studied it, they know every detail about it, they just seem to have forgotten it doesn’t exist.

[Also see – Meltdown: Rolling Stone Backtracks on Explosive UVA Rape Story, Issues Apology]

Now, hold on. I certainly believe rape happens. And I definitely believe we have cultural problems that lead to date rape and other drunken barbarisms and sober atrocities. But the term “rape culture” suggests that there is a large and obvious belief system that condones and enables rape as an end in itself in America. This simply strikes me as an elaborate political lie intended to strengthen the hand of activists. There’s definitely lots that is wrong with our culture, particularly youth culture and specifically campus culture. Sybaritic, crapulent, hedonistic, decadent, bacchanalian: choose your adjectives.

[More – So, How Much Fact-Checking Did Rolling Stone Do?]

What is most remarkable about our problems is that they seem to take people by surprise. For instance, it would be commonsense to our grandmothers that some drunk men will do bad things, particularly in a moral vacuum, and that women should take that into account. I constantly hear that instead of lecturing women about their behavior we should teach men not to rape. I totally, completely, 100 percent agree that we should teach men not to rape. The problem is we do that. A lot. Maybe we should do it more. We also teach people not to murder — another heinous crime. But murders happen too. That’s why we advise our kids to steer clear of certain neighborhoods at certain times and avoid certain behaviors. I’m not “pro-murder” if I tell my kid not to walk through the park at night and flash money around any more than I am pro-rape if I give her similar advice…” (read more here)

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The Left believes that lies can serve a greater truth.

Kevin D. Williamsonkevin-williamson‘s Bad Journalism, Even If It Were True

“The Left is committed to the notion that American colleges are hotbeds of sexual violence, racial bigotry, hatred of homosexuals, etc., because they are committed to the notion that the largely white and male upper echelons of American society — mostly products of those colleges — are secretly but unalterably committed to white supremacy, homophobia, and to using the threat of sexual violence to keep women in their place. 

The evidence suggests otherwise: Far from being an epidemic, sexual assault today happens at a rate about one-third that of 20 years ago, and rape seems to happen less often on college campuses than it does elsewhere. That should not be entirely surprising: Rape, like other crimes, tends to disproportionately affect people who are poor and non-white. As expected, the evidence points to sexual assault’s being more common in poor rural areas, Indian reservations, poor urban areas, etc. It is also more common where people tend to be relatively isolated, with Alaska having the nation’s highest rate of sexual assault. Read the rest of this entry »


Meltdown: Rolling Stone Backtracks on Explosive UVA Rape Story, Issues Apology

UVA-campus

Meghan Keneally reports: A stunning report about how rape is handled at UVA that sparked national outcry and prompted the university to suspend all fraternity activities for the year is now being called into question.

“In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced.”

Rolling Stone magazine today began distancing themselves from the shocking story published last month about a student that the publication identified as “Jackie,” who said that she was the victim of a gang rape by seven men at a fraternity party.

latimes-oops

“In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced,” the magazine’s managing editor, Will Dana, wrote in a letter published on the magazine’s website.

Dana said the author of the lengthy feature, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, did not talk to any of the students involved in the alleged rape before publishing the story out of respect for Jackie.

“We were trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault and now regret the decision to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account. We are taking this seriously and apologize to anyone who was affected by the story.”

The fraternity where the rape allegedly occurred has released a statement today denying the article’s allegations. Read the rest of this entry »


REWIND: Rolling Stone Retracts Rape Story

rollingstone

Rolling Stone magazine has retracted the reporting behind its controversial story, A Rape on Campus, published last month. In an editor’s note added to the top of the story online, Managing Editor Will Dana wrote that “there now appear to be discrepancies” in the primary source’s account and “we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced.”

[Also see – Rolling Stone, Rape Apologists]

[More – A Campus Epidemic: Rape Hoax Culture]

The original article, which caused the University of Virginia to suspend all fraternity activity on campus, came under fire once it was revealed that the author, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, had not spoken to the accused perpetrators of an alleged gang rape against a student identified as Jackie.

But while both Erdely and her editor on the story Sean Woods were confident that the assailants were real based on Jackie’s story, the magazine has now come out and said that may not be the case.

“One thing that will be great fun to watch: the coming lawsuit…Rolling Stone accused the members of that fraternity of being members of an evil, ongoing, criminal enterprise.”

— Jonah Goldberg (read more here)

Read Dana’s full editor’s note below:

To Our Readers:

Last month, Rolling Stone published a story titled “A Rape on Campus” by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, which described a brutal gang rape of a woman named Jackie at a University of Virginia fraternity house; the university’s failure to respond to this alleged assault – and the school’s troubling history of indifference to many other instances of alleged sexual assaults. The story generated worldwide headlines and much soul-searching at UVA. University president Teresa Sullivan promised a full never-mindinvestigation and also to examine the way the school responds to sexual assault allegations.

Because of the sensitive nature of Jackie’s story, we decided to honor her request not to contact the man she claimed orchestrated the attack on her nor any of the men she claimed participated in the attack for fear of retaliation against her. In the months Erdely spent reporting the story, Jackie neither said nor did anything that made Erdely, or Rolling Stone’s editors and fact-checkers, question Jackie’s credibility. Her friends and rape activists on campus strongly supported Jackie’s account. She had spoken of the assault in campus forums. We reached out to both the local branch and the national leadership of the fraternity where Jackie said she was attacked. They responded that they couldn’t confirm or deny her story but had concerns about the evidence. Read the rest of this entry »