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: Continue reading