Baffling. Whether you believe Jackie or not, there’s no dispute that RS farked up egregiously in honoring her request that they not interview her alleged attackers. RS lit a fire at UVA that’s burned down the Greek system there; they accused a bunch of kids at Phi Kappa Psi of horrendous felonies when even basic details about the supposed attack didn’t check out in hindsight; and they may well have given bona fide rape victims new reason to keep quiet for fear that the public won’t believe their stories. Seems like a firing offense. But no, apparently Jann Wenner’s going to stick by his crew because the sort of talent that’ll happily smear other people with thinly sourced stories of ritual gang rape is hard to come by in the world of journalism.
Aren’t there a bunch of recent TNR editors who are free agents right now, by the way? I bet Frank Foer would have taken Wenner’s call. Assuming he’s willing to work for a magazine this far left.
According to a source inside Rolling Stone, who insisted on anonymity to preserve an ongoing relationship with the magazine, Sean Woods presented a letter of resignation to founder and publisher Jann S. Wenner. Mr Wenner, said to be furious at the unraveling of what had originally looked like a massive scoop, declined to accept the resignation…
“Jann at this point has fired more people than most owners will ever hire. [Managing editor] Will [Dana] has lasted longer than any editor in the history of Rolling Stone and Jann puts a lot of currency in the people who are there and doesn’t want to go through the hassle of finding great people. And he also believes that Will is the best editor in New York. And he might be right.”
A guy who greenlit a fiasco because he and the rest of the RS staff found its “privileged white frat boys perpetuating ‘rape culture'” narrative too intoxicating to check is the best editor in New York? You know, that … could be true. Realistically, how many other editors who move in Wenner’s and Dana’s circle would have found this narrative just as intoxicating but would have pulled the plug on it for being a wee bit too thin on sourcing? To answer that question, consider how many reporters and editors were skeptical of the RS story after it was published. Online, on social media among industry pros, the slobber was endless. Maybe that’s why Wenner gave Woods and Dana a break: They’re not guilty of anything here that most of their competitors wouldn’t have been guilty of had they been in their shoes. And their mistakes were made in service to a Larger Truth, which makes this a venial sin by media standards no matter how many people were hurt by it. You don’t send an editor to the fire for a venial sin, especially when he’s trying to repent.
Are they trying to repent, though? Here’s more from the source inside RS who claims Woods offered to resign:
The source attributes at least part of the explosion of the story not to the revelations about inconsistencies in Jackie’s story, but to the way Rolling Stone responded, or failed to respond.
“[Author Sabrina Rubin] Erdely was terrible in the podcast,” said the source, referring to a how-I-got-the-story interview that the story’s author Sabrina Rubin Erdely gave to Slate. “Hanna Rosin is like a dog with a bone and you can hear her disbelief as Erdely explained her methods. Then when people started asking around, they failed to get outfront of this. Will has this WASPy sense of entitlement and has this sense that Rolling Stone is above it all. By Wednesday, it had blown up and by Thursday Will had put out this real mealy-mouthed statement, and even that statement had to be re-written.”…
“UVA does have a problem. That’s legit. The problem is she (meaning Ms. Erdely not [head fact-checker Coco] McPherson) found a story that was embellished. It didn’t hold up.”
Fake but accurate, in other words, and apparently this is mainly a PR problem. Sounds like good repentin’ to me. One hopeful note, though: The source says that RS is going to “re-report” the story by going back to UVA a la what the New York Times did with Jayson Blair’s bogus oeuvre after he was exposed as a fabulist. That makes me wonder whether, internally, they suspect there may be more to this cock-up than Erdely simply being taken in by a college kid who embellished her story for a famous magazine. Maybe they’re going to investigate Erdely herself, to see what other scoops in her archive might look thin in hindsight under a newly skeptical eye. Think they’ll find anything?