Monday, April 06, 2015

Columbia University Journalism School Blasts Fabricated Story - But What Of Hundreds In Our Case?

Posted by Peter Quennell

1. The Damage From False Media Reports

Once a false meme is put out there it can do immense harm and be almost impossible to turn around.

Public relations houses try to propagate memes, and if they are false that is sleazy and unethical but usually does not contravene criminal law.

But serious media spreading such memes have a very strong moral mandate and at times a legal mandate to check, double-check, and check again.

Often the real damage extends way beyond immediate victims and witnesses and families and friends. It can chill and distort right across law enforcement and the justice system and deeply affect paranoia-prone minds.

2. The Rolling Stone Article Report

What was misreported in the fortnightly Rolling Stone is described chronologically today by Rolling Stone itself here.

Essentially, an experienced reporter with a valid story did not go the extra mile to check if her highly inflammatory flagship claim was true.

There seems no question now that it was not.

The first report that the story did not smell right was posted by a respected reporter here. A week later, the Washington Post reported serious discrepancies here and here.

A few days later Rolling Stone itself cautiously began to ‘fess up. The story was indeed untrue. Neither the reporter nor the editor had checked, double-checked, and checked again.

Its owner Jann Renner contracted with the Columbia University Graduate Journalism School to publish an in-depth report.  The supposed victim was increasingly contradicted by her own friends and shown to have changed stories a lot. On 23 March local police reported that their investigation turned up no sign of a crime.

Yesterday the journalism school published their conclusions on “What Went Wrong” and they will make available and summarise the full version of their report on April 8th.

Damage has rippled on and on not least to women who have a huge interest in being taken seriously when they have a complaint.

The University of Virgina is in full damage control mode (that campus is about one hour’s drive southwest of Washington). Who could now be charged or sued is discussed here in the Washington Post. Many reputations have come out looking worse.

3. Relevance To Meredith’s Case?

On 27 June 2011 (right in the middle of the Hellmann appeal) Rolling Stone published one of the least accurate and most damaging and defamatory of literally hundreds of inaccurate reports.

Nathaniel Rich reported only in English, of course, from safely across the Atlantic, and there was zero due diligence by the editor at Rolling Stone (the same editor as today). His false claims were very widely quoted elsewhere. See here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here.

Rolling Stone inflamed public opinion through false claims.  It added to the perception that an extradition battle could drop two governments in the soup. That may have impacted the Supreme Court.

Yes, this case of mass misreporting seems every bit as bad.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 04/06/15 at 03:59 PM in News media & moviesThe wider contextsN America context

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Actually-refused sexual relations & non-consenting sexual relations are definitely-to-be-subjected-to-Disciplinary-Action; so is the Irresponsible-Reporting in this case.

Not only is Rolling Stone still failing to properly discipline its staff, but the chronic bias of automatically labeling the alleged-victim as an anonymous actual-victim, and the alleged-perp automatically labeled as an actual perp.

In this case the false report named Date, Place, and alleged perp’s 1st name.Usually the alleged-perp’s Full Name, and even Photograph, are Published.

Balance needs to be established, both in this case and in Meredith’s case.

Posted by Cardiol MD on 04/06/15 at 07:45 PM | #

Seems like impressive action by Jann Renner and the Columbia University team, right?  But for each it may be too little, too late.

Sites like this often win more trust. Years of too much dishonest reporting have started to lay the reporting profession low.

Rolling Stone circulation has been fading for quite a while.

And so is enrollment at the journalism school of Columbia U.

Sorry, guys, but we have a stack of posts showing up false media claims still to come.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 04/06/15 at 10:06 PM | #

This report of legal action against Rolling Stone has just gone live with mention of well-aimed concern toward the many other potential victims of the haywire report.

Phi Psi members at U-Va. now pledge to undergo sexual assault awareness training and collaborate with sexual violence prevention groups on campus.

“Clearly our fraternity and its members have been defamed, but more importantly we fear this entire episode may prompt some victims to remain in the shadows, fearful to confront their attackers,” said Scipione.

See also this:

Posted by Peter Quennell on 04/06/15 at 10:17 PM | #

Being talked about on TV tonight by the Columbia University dean of journalism are “systemic problems” and “confirmation bias”.

A systemic problem sounds like mumbo-jumbo to most people and to me is a strong sign that the dean is maybe not the right guy to get down to root causes - and maybe why on his watch American quality media is going through a slow meltdown.

Try instead “a failure in one or other purposeful system” and many people might start to know what to look for, map out, and grapple with.

“Confirmation bias” is really just an example of a failure of purposeful systems to stop that confirmation bias, such as journalist failing to cover all bases and fact-checkers (as here) being too junior and failing to override a powerful editor.

There has been huge confirmation bias in the Perugia case - but it has been on the part of most reporters and most TV talking heads, not on the part of the cops and prosecutors.

Here are two clear proofs of that.

First, check out all the seven links to other articles above intoxicated by Nathaniel Rich’s false findings. Those quoted were just some of the examples. Journalists grabbed what Nathaniel Rich was claiming, and without checking made it their own in other articles. There was endemic recycling.

Second, check out this quote from a previous post. These are all lies by omission, which is really a better name for confirmation bias - if all of these matters had been addressed,  balanced reporting would have been inevitable. 

If you watch the numerous CBS videos or read the numerous attacks on Italy on their site, do you spot a trend? CBS 48 Hours is prone to leaving an awful lot out.

Where is CBS’s translation of even one major document? Where is evidence of knowledge of even one court transcript? Where is the real reason the appeals were allowed? Where are the six opportunities RS and AK were given before trial to prove they had no role? Where are the bad times the defense had in 2009? What about the lengthy trial sessions behind closed doors? Where are the numerous conflicting alibis?  Where are the numerous whacks at one another by RS and AK? Where is AK’s disastrous stint on the stand? Where is any mention of the dealer Knox screwed for drugs? Where is the current trial of RS for his book? Where is the trial of Oggi for Knox’s book? Where is the Knox interrogation hoax? Where is the Carabineri lab nailing the “science” of C&V? Where is the known corruption of the Hellmann court? Where is the downfall of defense witnesses Alessi and Aviello? Where is the Guede/lone-wolf hoax?  Where is the downward spiral of Frank Sforza now on trial in Italy and wanted by US and Canadian police? Where is any fair remark about the Italian system or its staff? Where is the long overdue expose of the Preston hoaxes? Why are Spetzi’s many losses in court not there? Where is the truth about the Narducci 22? Where is Dr Mignini’s total rebound and promotion after Cassation sharply repudiated a rogue prosecutor and judge in Florence?  Why does CBS feel such a need to defame so many Italians in English from so far? Where is any mention of the PR’s corrupting very big bucks?

Back to the University of Virginia story and Columbia University. The dean should actually be working at three levels, though it may surprise him to know this.

(1) He is running a graduate journalism school, which is in itself a bunch of systems (staffing, budgets, courses, etc).

(2) He is training student journalists in systems which should allow them to create good reporting.

(3) He is (or should be) training student journalists to see and report on the state and probable decay of society’s systems.

He seems to be defaulting heavily on (3) as are almost all journalists.

Here is proof of that.

Right after the dean finished his TV segment, a national head of a campus security organization came on to talk about campus security and rape counseling and student safety.

Those are all systems, and she had a very good handle on them.

She said the journalist had TOTALLY MISSED that huge improvements in such systems have occurred in recent years. And that university officials who the journalist had demonized for the meltdown she wrongly perceived had been performing rather brilliantly.

In other words, rather than a growing epidemic, there is a growing solution, and in the past several years people on campus have actually been getting safer. (Firing Steve Moore was part of that.)

The one case the reporter quoted to prove an epidemic was in fact a made-up one.  Why could that journalist not “see” those systems? And report on their health and those responsible for them objectively?

Her lie was not just about Jackie. Her lie was the entire story.

Back to the dean. If he was fully performing at the third of his three system levels, maybe this huge lie and all it has engendered by an ill-trained journalist would not even exist today.

And nor would the giant fiasco that is false reporting about Perugia, counteracted only by only a very few reporters much-quoted here. Well-meaning though he is, the dean seems part of the problem.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 04/07/15 at 02:25 AM | #

“On November 24th, Worth magazine editor in chief Richard Bradley[4] published a blog post titled “Is the Rolling Stone Story True?”, which questioned the story’s authenticity and comparing it to the 2006 Duke lacrosse case”

This was the inspiration for TJMK, as many readers know.

The falsely accused students were crucified by LE & Duke PC-faculty. The Students reputations were ruined, but they sued and Duke paid-out $$$$$.

Posted by Cardiol MD on 04/07/15 at 03:39 AM | #

Hi Cardiol.

Right-on. Here’s more. Rolling Stone very controversially lionised Boston Marathon Bomber Tsarnaev by way of this airbrushed image below.

It has come out in his trial now wrapping up that Tsarnaev stood behind a line of children and deliberately placed his bomb there. It maimed some children for life.


Posted by Peter Quennell on 04/07/15 at 03:59 AM | #

The Columbia U. GSJ Dean is quoted in today’s WSJ as saying that his investigation “found no evidence that (Rolling Stone) magazine staffers committed clearly fire-able

So they did find evidence both of staffers committing Offences, and of committing Fire-Able Offences?

They found only no evidence of staffers committing Clearly-Fire-Able-Offences?

Is this Journalistic-Sophistry, or what?

Posted by Cardiol MD on 04/07/15 at 05:49 PM | #


Clutch your friends close and your enemies closer…

Rolling Stone would long have KNOWN the damaging article would be the subject of a lawsuit, as the fraternity house was named, and any student living there had hanging over them for months the aura of a gang-rapist. 

So Rolling Stone contracted for the study (though there was no fee) and Rolling Stone dictated the parameters which were in fact quite narrow.

Keeping the editor and the reporter on the payroll - clutching them closely - keeps them off the streets and not out there hiring their own lawyers or trying to do private deals (as the reporter seems to have been angling for) with the students.

Next? A private settlement? Lets hope not. The students need to get their good names back, and mere cash wont go far to achieving that. And a whacked Rolling Stone could be a timely example.

In the Duke Lacrosse case where three students were falsely arrested and then given little or no support from Duke University or the town of Durham, they negotiated at least $18 million from the university.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 04/07/15 at 06:23 PM | #

@Cardiol MD

“Is this Journalistic-Sophistry, or what?”

Yes! Isn’t it amazing what syntax can reveal sometimes?

Clunky sentences should always ring alarm bells.

Posted by Odysseus on 04/08/15 at 09:31 AM | #

Here now is the investigation report - it seems to be the whole thing, though there was mention of a long-form summary too.

No time to read it all now - this first take below seems to be in line with what we discussed above.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 04/08/15 at 05:42 PM | #
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