Rolling Stone journalist Boris Moros had been terrorizing colleagues for weeks. He had been writing factually inaccurate articles, with everyone’s knowledge, for months. Two weeks ago, he left a dead rat on a fact checker’s desk. Last week, he ran around the office wearing nothing but a diaper. Yesterday, finally, was the last straw. When asked by both his editor and the oh-so diligent fact-checker to independently confirm his anonymous source’s story, he completely flipped out, dropped his trousers then a turd on his boss’s desk. Naturally, Rolling Stone took immediate action and suspended his company gym privileges for one week.
Bud Fox News reports this fit of fecal freakism only because RS’s martinetish punishment of Mr. Moros strangely differs from its kid-glove treatment of those involved with author Sabrina Erdely’s entirely inaccurate word-turd titled “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA” that appeared on the magazine’s website last November 19 (which we wrote about here). This week, the Columbia School of Journalism released a scorching report that shed light on the outrageous journalistic incompetence at play in the magazine’s criminal release of a story that a bumbling Inspector Clouseau would have exposed as a hoax in about 15 minutes. Ineptitude, combined with a journalist’s shameful desire to push a political agenda, not only damaged the reputations of innocent individuals and the University of Virginia, but also probably damaged efforts to address sexual violence on campus. The whole affair has lots of pundits talking about “journalistic standards and practices” as if it’s some sort of secret code meant only for the erudite, but like most things that are made complicated by insiders looking to justify their livelihoods, this affair is pretty simple: 1) Don’t besmirch individuals’ and institutions’ reputations by printing “facts” on deathly serious topics when you haven’t done even a lick of work to prove them, and 2) don’t let your objectivity be clouded by a preexisting philosophy or pre-formed objective: According to Columbia’s report, Erdely said that “she was searching for a single, emblematic college rape case that would show ‘what it’s like to be on campus now … where not only is rape so prevalent….‘” Erdely’s article gave readers no reason to believe that she had studied life at UVa sufficiently to conclude that rape was indeed prevalent there. In her article, she also cited the debunked statistic that one in five college women is sexually assaulted, which at a school Virginia’s size, implies hundreds of sexual assaults per class. Did she stop to think about the sheer numbers that statistic suggested? Quite simply, Erdely was looking for an eye-popping story to neatly back her conclusions about UVa and college life in general, conclusions that she never bothered to prove.
Just a few observations about the Columbia release:
- It should be noted that RS’s co-founder and publisher is Jann Wenner, who also presides over another paragon of journalism, Us Weekly, whose pages are good at sopping up drink spills, not much else. On March 18, Us Weekly published an interview with Kendall Jenner that the magazine now admits, in all its truth-seeking candor, never happened, so it’s pretty obvious that RS stinks from the head down. During Columbia’s press conference about its report, the Journalism School’s reps dodged questions about whether anyone should have been fired because of this catastrophe of words (appallingly, no one was). That’s just plain Insufficient. To paraphrase the movie Henry Fool, when noble minds shrink from their leadership obligations, scoundrels will rush in to fill the void. So Bud Fox News will try to beat them to the punch and say that just about everyone associated with this unfortunate incident should have been fired, but when the guy at the top of the whole vile structure has demonstrated that he’s so eager for readers/eyeballs that his integrity is lower than that of crocodile piss, well…it’s back to work for everyone.
- RS’s Managing Editor Will Dana, who in a sane world would be currently unemployed and using his prevarication/bullshit skills to doctor his resume, wrote an unbelievably un-self-aware, sophomoric introduction to the Columbia report as it appeared on RS’s website in which he had the audacity to describe the report as “a fascinating document.” No, it’s not, and it’s a disgrace that the report was even necessary. Dana’s attitude reminds BFN of a moronic, drunken teenager hanging out at the diner after a house party, recapping the evening and laughingly dissecting why dropping his trousers and exposing himself wasn’t considered endearing by two cheerleaders. One wonders whether he’ll find the lawsuits fascinating.
- According to the Columbia report, “The failure encompassed reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking.” It sounds as if the only people at RS who didn’t contribute to this disaster were the people stuck cleaning the bathrooms, a far nobler job than character/institution assassination.
- Erdely seems about as ethically and intellectually challenged as the bizarre love child of Satan and a mental retard. Columbia, in its report, tried to establish her journalistic bona fides by mentioning that she authored “The Gangster Princess of Beverly Hills,” about a “high-living Korean model and self-styled Samsung heiress accused of transporting 7,000 pounds of marijuana.” And therein lies the rub, if you’re serving up what amounts to a Valley Girl Monthly article to fix this woman’s professionalism, then she never should have been assigned the article: Erdeley should be updating us on whether Taylor Swift has changed lipstick shades or Beiber has gone AWOL during rehab. Dana, who clearly shouldn’t be managing much more than a New Jersey Transit ticket kiosk, described Erdely as “a very thorough and persnickety reporter“…who was played for a fool by a school kid half her age. RS gave the Columbia investigators a 405-page record of Erdely’s interviews and research notes, which means the author converted a phone book-sized, ersatz research tome, compiled over no less than five months, into a magazine article that was disproved by the Washington Post in about a week.
- Like a lying, cheating, gossip-mongering town drunk who’s staggering from bar to bar, Rolling Stone missed a number of chances to stop its binge of stupidity: 1) it never contacted the accuser’s three friends, 2) it didn’t give Phi Kappa Psi enough information when it asked the fraternity for comment, and 3) (and this is unreal) it didn’t identify the accuser’s attacker.
- Amazingly, it seems Erdely became seriously concerned about the validity of her source’s account only after the journalist’s attempt at creative writing went public. It was only then that Jackie revealed her attacker’s name to Erdely. When Jackie couldn’t spell his surname, Erdely admitted, “An alarm bell went off in my head,” quite possibly the only activity that’s occurred in her cranium since this debacle started. Erdely then tried to confirm certain basic facts (with more diligence than her initial indefensible effort), like whether the attacker indeed worked at the swimming pool, so laughingly late in the game it was like giving mouth-to-mouth after having already chopped the head off the body.
- With the release of the Columbia report, RS has “officially” retracted the article, so to extend the dead body metaphor, which seems apt considering how little brain function was going on at RS, a recantation now is so tardy that it’s like poking a cadaver for a week before finally realizing that the blue hue means the guy’s dead. You know what they say- when Fido pees on the carpet floor, if you wait too long to rub his nose in it, he’ll have no idea why he’s in trouble. Casual readers have moved on, and the smearing of UVa and Phi Psi probably can’t be entirely undone (and they didn’t even let one go on the rug).
- Coco McPherson (a name best left to the House of Chanel and certainly not one that lends any gravitas if one aspires to be taken seriously), RS’s “fact-checking chief” (how does “erstwhile” not precede her title?, which reads like “deliberate speed”), blithely rejects the notion that RS needs to make significant changes: “We just have to do what we’ve always done and just make sure that we don’t make this mistake again.” That’s the thought process of an alcoholic who’s just emerged from a blackout- “I don’t need to stop drinking, I just need to self-monitor a bit better.“
- Discussing why RS opted to use pseudonyms for Jackie’s three “friends,” Erdeley’s Editor, Sean Woods, who clearly isn’t qualified to preside over a first-grader’s book report on “The Cat in the Hat,” hilariously asserted, “I wanted to protect them.” This statement is outlandish. A randomly selected dope-smoking teenager could probably tell you that’s not how you protect Person A after you’ve heard Person B traduce the former’s character. You seek out Person A and speak to him or her. You don’t print something unsubstantiated but use aliases to make yourself feel better about your intellectual and professional laziness.
- In the end, this entire clustershow exposes Rolling Stone’s completely unbalanced ethical compass, which has been corkscrewed by a rather nasty magnet powered by an agenda of political correctness and unhinged feminism.