Rolling Stone In Uphill Battle Against Truth

Rolling Stone’s sensationalized story about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia has been thoroughly discredited for inaccuracies suggesting that the horrific account could not have happened as it was described. The story was rightfully retracted. The consequences are many, but accountability is fleeting. Jann S. Wenner, the magazine’s publisher, said no one would be fired.

According to a searing report written by the dean of the Columbia Journalism School and two colleagues, Rolling Stone’s failures were as profound as they were avoidable. The magazine’s editorial machine avoided basic principles of reporting, editing, and fact checking. These missteps by writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely and her leadership delivered a serious blow to the magazine and significantly harmed the reputation of journalism. Those responsible should pay for their mistakes.

To be clear, the decision to retract a story is a remarkable move. It doesn’t happen often, and when it does, it’s a big deal that reflects a troubling reality: the corruption of truth itself. That may sound hyperbolic, but the pursuit of truth is the point of journalism. When that ideal is muddled to a degree that compels a story’s retraction, the entire world of journalism suffers. And the harm is only compounded further by Wenner’s deeply flawed perception of the
entire debacle.

In an interview with the New York Times, he placed the lionshare of the blame on the main subject of the story. Wenner called her a “really expert fabulist storyteller.”

The problem does not lie with a “fabulist storyteller.” It rests squarely on the shoulders of those who abandoned essential journalistic standards and those too cowardly to face the truth.