Wenner raised eyebrows when he said no one would be fired following a damning investigation by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
The probe found an almost total systemic failure in the way the magazine handled the story beginning with the reporter, editor, the editor’s supervisor and the fact-checking department.
The only red flag came when fact-checkers warned that the alleged rape victim was the article’s lone source for crucial details. But their concerns were blown off. No other sources were contacted to confirm key elements of the story, the report said.
The story also used pseudonyms, which may, or may not, have been real people.
The sensational story went to print last November and touched off a national uproar. Not only are student rapes on campus a national problem, but prestigious universities like UVA are often accused of covering them up.
Following the graduate school’s report, Rolling Stone managing editor Will Dana, officially second in command, formally retracted the story. Students involved are now talking about suing the magazine.
“This isn’t a gaffe or a brain fart or a whoopsie daisy. This is a big deal,” Stewart said. “And you can’t just deal with it by issuing a correction. This story is monumental f*ck-up territory.”
Stewart threatened to make a “citizen’s firing” if Wenner didn’t step up. But chances are he won’t. The magazine co-founder said the findings of the report were punishment enough.
“The report is actually not punishment at all,” Stewart bellowed.
The writer, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, began her reporting by contacting UVA’s rape crisis counselor. She asked if they was a single, emblematic case that would show “what it’s like to be on campus now … where not only is rape so prevalent but also that there’s this pervasive culture of sexual harassment/rape culture,” according to her own notes.
The problem, says Stewart, is those cases exist everywhere. But the Rolling Stone story now makes it even harder to get at the truth.
“Campus rapes happens with shocking frequency, a very real and under-reported problem that many college and university administrations have met with a lack of concern and stonewalling. Victims need help and support,” he said.
The story not only failed to get the point across, but set the cause back, he said. “Someone’s got to go.”
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