A Rolling Stone Gathers No Facts

I can’t add much to what John observed here last night about Rolling Stone’s egregious and false UVA rape story, but I couldn’t let a great headline go to waste (hat tip: RS).

Actually I can add one observation: this is hardly the first time we’ve seen the media taken in by its overwhelming ideological confirmation bias. Just cast your mind back to 1981, as I recounted in my Age of Reagan:

A young African-American Post reporter, Janet Cooke, had written a sensational story about an eight-year-old heroin addict she had found on the streets of Washington.  But after the story won the Pulitzer Prize, cooler heads began to inquire about the implausibility of the story.  What eight-year-old can afford to support a heroin habit?  As the story quickly unraveled, conservatives made the point that such a shoddy story could only get through the editorial process because it conformed to liberal stereotypes of victimology and minority misery.  Cooke was fired and the Post embarrassed, but there was little change in elite media editorial outlook.

At least the Post had the good sense to fire Janet Cooke, who disappeared from journalism and public view although, in typical lefty fashion, she later sold the film rights to her story for a cool $1.6 million.  (Lesson: It always pays well to embrace leftist values: See—Al Gore.  Cooke also made up a number of academic credentials she didn’t earn, but no one at the Post ever checked her out before hiring her.)  Just like Rolling Stone and its defenders today saying that at least the hoax story has raised consciousness about campus rape, in 1981 Post publisher Donald Graham defended the essence of the story even after Cooke was fired:

It is a brilliant story—fake and fraud that it is. It would be absurd for me or any other editor to review the authenticity or accuracy of stories that are nominated for prizes.

In other words, “fake, but accurate.”  (Where have we heard that before?)  And it’s “absurd” for editors to review the authenticity of stories they print as fact?  No wonder circulation is down.  I’m definitely sticking with the National Enquirer for my investigative news.  (Hey—they got the John Edwards story right, didn’t they?)

Apparently neither Erdely nor any editors at Rolling Stone are going to be fired because of the UVA hoax, even though it is much more serious in its consequences.  This must be what is known today as “accountability” in newsrooms.


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