Life comes at you fast, doesn’t it? In one moment you’re publishing a story about a woman who was supposedly gang raped on campus; a story that would later receive nation-wide coverage and scrutiny. Next thing you know, you’re gnashing your teeth as your story gets debunked as a total fabrication and your reputation goes down the drain. Oh, and you also have to sell your company now because it is no longer worth keeping.
Three years ago, Rolling stone published an article narrating a horrific gang rape of a student of University of Virginia, identified only as “Jackie”. Jackie claimed the school administration had failed to investigate her report and refused to take action against her attackers.
She further alleged that gang rapes like hers were prevalent on the college campus, and that the school administration does nothing to counter it. Following the publishing of the story, Feminists carried out several protests against the fraternity where the rape allegedly took place. Broken windows, destroyed property …… you know the drill.
The story was eventually debunked and exposed as a hoax, as several inconsistencies in Jackie’s story were brought forward. She made the whole thing up. The fraternity in question, Phi Kappa Psi, took legal action against Rolling Stone for defamation and settled for 1.65 million dollars. Nicole Eramo, the dean of UVA’s sexual misconduct board was also awarded another 3 million dollars in her lawsuit against Rolling stone, for how she was portrayed in the article.
But financial loss isn’t the only harm Rolling stone suffered as a result of publishing the article, there’s also the case of integrity and reputation. Barely anyone takes Rolling stone seriously anymore, especially since they refused to fire the woman who wrote the story or any of their editorial staff. Now, the owner of the magazine, Jann S. Wenner, is calling it quits and putting his company up for sale (New York Times):
…..the headwinds buffeting the publishing industry, and some costly strategic missteps, have steadily taken a financial toll on Rolling Stone, and a botched story three years ago about an unproven gang rape at the University of Virginia badly bruised the magazine’s journalistic reputation.
And so, after a half-century reign that propelled him into the realm of the rock stars and celebrities who graced his covers, Mr. Wenner is putting his company’s controlling stake in Rolling Stone up for sale, relinquishing his hold on a publication he has led since its founding.
First Gawker, then JoyStick, and now Rolling Stone. Let’s hope Polygon and Salon follow soon.