After music magazine Rolling Stone made a public apology for getting its blockbuster college gang rape story wrong, the media critic of The Washington Post said that the UVA hoax revealed a major case of media bias.
On Friday, November 5, Rolling Stone issued an official apology for a disastrously reported-story that accused some fraternity members at the University of Virginia of an hours-long, conspiratorial gang rape.
Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s story, a centerpiece article in the November issue and used by dozens of liberals in the media to highlight the “rape culture” they say plagues America’s university campuses, was the feature of the news media cycle since its publication..
But the story fell apart when multiple media outlets, noting that none of the facts in the story seem to be true, began to poke holes in it.. Worse, in its apology letter, Rolling Stone admitted that it broke journalistic practices by refusing to check any of the facts — because the “victim” had asked them not to.
Now the Post’s Eric Wemple accuses the magazine of engaging in the worst sort of media bias.
Wemple notes that Stone reporter Erdley admitted that as she prepared to write the story, she went “rape” shopping, going from university to university to find just the right university with just the right story to fit her preconceived idea of rape on campus.
The Post critic said that it is clear by both the rape story article itself and the author’s comments about the piece made in interviews that she was attempting to create “impact journalism” as opposed to simply reporting.
“In the case, of Erdely’s piece, however,” Wemple wrote, “there’s ample evidence of poisonous biases that landed Rolling Stone in what should be an existential crisis.”
Wemple also accused writer Erdely of having a “proclivity to stereotype” that influenced her story and caused her to automatically suspect the “rich” and “privileged” members of UVA’s Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.
In her story, Wemple said, Erdely “refuses to evaluate the alleged gang rapists as individuals, instead opting to fold them into the caricature of the ‘elitist fraternity culture,’ and all its delicious implications. Of course, one of the reasons she didn’t describe the accused is that she never reached out to them.”
As far as Wemple is concerned, with all the nasty things Erdely said of those “frat boys,” it was clear that she “she wanted to believe” all the worst her “victim” told her of them.
Still, despite that the Rolling Stone’s rape story has been proven to be false in every instance, some media liberals are still saying that we should have believed the “victim” Jackie anyway. Another criticized the media for hurting the cause of feminism by doubting the story.
On the other hand, others are saying that this incident proves that our culture has become too “victim-centric,” so much so that facts seem to be the last thing anyone is concerned about.
The story has definitely put a black mark on Rolling Stone’s reputation not just for being wrong. Merely publishing a wrong fact is not the end of the world. Every publication, every journalist is bound to get something wrong somewhere. But what Rolling Stone did was embark upon a story with a biased premise, shopped around until it found a situation it desperately wanted to believe in because it fit those preconceived notions, and then never double checked any of the facts in that story before going to press.
It was a failure on nearly every level.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter: @warnerthuston. Email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.