Monday, April 6, 2015

Rolling Stone Story Annihilated By Columbia Journalism Report, Nobody Fired

I reckon we shouldn't be too surprised that the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism report on last November's Rolling Stone article, "A Rape On Campus: A Brutal Assault And Struggle For Justice at UVA" was both damning of virtually every action taken by managing editor Will Dana, and immediately followed by an abject refusal to take any responsibility for changing things so this can't happen again:
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 and just make sure we don’t make this mistake again.” Coco McPherson, the fact-checking chief, said, “I one hundred percent do not think that the policies that we have in place failed. I think decisions were made around those because of the subject matter.”
In which case, it's necessary to actually question what the real, not titular, points of those procedures really are, viz. bias confirmation of their most loyal readers and clickbait/issue sales. The Pressthink deconstruction is a lot more succinct, and especially, their point 7 about how "[n]one of those schools felt quite right". That is to say, none of the other stories fit the narrative as well; Rolling Stone knew their audience and knew their point, true or not. Likewise, Sabrina Erdely's bad faith apology which does not even mention Phi Kappa Psi, to whom her story had done real reputational and even physical damage. Rolling Stone's lawyers must be pretty sure of their case that they don't sense a libel suit coming, because indeed nobody will get fired for this mass indiscretion. Similar sentiments apply to UVa president Teresa Sullivan, who has refused to apologize for her actions of shutting down all frats in the wake of the article. The future is clear: so long as you don't libel specific people who can sue, bias-confirming, fact-free, unchecked articles will keep getting published.

Update: Phi Kappa Psi has initiated a lawsuit against Rolling Stone. I hope they win big, but I am rather doubtful.

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