Rolling Stone Report Is 'Scathing,' But Nets Skimp on Reporter Keeping Job

April 6th, 2015 1:06 PM

All three networks on Monday prominently covered the "scathing" report on Rolling Stone's retraction of a brutal rape allegation at the University of Virginia. But, ABC, NBC and CBS skimped on the fact that no one at the magazine will be fired. Today, CBS This Morning and Good Morning America offered 10 minutes and nine seconds to the "blistering report" by Columbia University, but a scant 32 seconds of that time was devoted to the total lack of responsibility being imposed. 

Good Morning America's David Wright marveled at the investigation by Columbia's department of journalism: "It's a piece of journalism about a piece of journalistic malpractice." Yet, he allowed  a single sentence on a key detail: "Overnight, Rolling Stone retracted the story, but did not fire the reporter or her editors." Overall, ABC managed just 11 seconds on this point. 

Worrying about the stature of the liberal publication, Wright fretted, "The scandal has tarnished the reputation of the magazine that was the home of Hunter S. Thompson and more recently brought down the Army general commanding U.S. troops in Afghanistan." 

Over on CBS This Morning, there was a total of three minutes and 47 seconds on the "blistering report." Yet, a meager four seconds by Charlie Rose noted that "editors will keep their jobs." Reporter Julianna Goldman highlighted the pain of Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the writer who authored the now infamous article: "The Rolling Stone reporter apologized and called the report brutal and humbling." 

NBC's Today devoted three minutes and 47 seconds to the case. Additionally, the network allowed the most time on no one being fired, still a tiny 17 seconds. Yet, at least NBC led with the important detail. Co-host Matt Lauer opened the show by wondering, "So, why is the article's author being allowed keep her job?" Reporter Gabe Gutierrez marveled, "But despite [the journalistic failure], everyone will keep their jobs." 

In a follow-up, Gutierrez underlined, "Rolling Stone's publisher said the New York Times that this represented an isolated and unusual episode and that the reporter would continue to write for Rolling Stone magazine." The journalist interviewed two UVA students who were misrepresented in the story. 

Gutierrez pressed Ryan Duffin, who was not contacted for the Rolling Stone article, "If this reporter had just contacted you, could all this be avoided?" 

NBC and CBS highlighted the story as the most important topic, leading their programs with the retraction. (ABC got to it at 7:08 ET.) However,  the lack of accountability for the magazine's editors and authors deserved more attention. 

A transcript of the April 6 GMA segment is below: 


ROBIN ROBERTS: Now to that Rolling Stone magazine report about an alleged attack on a female student at the University of Virginia. The Charlottesville police finding no evidence to support that claim. Now, an independent investigation into the magazine's reporting is revealing its finding. ABC's David Wright has those details for us. Good morning, David. 

DAVID WRIGHT: Good morning, Robin. Rolling Stone is now retracting it's UVA rape story after its devastating review by the Columbia University graduate school of journalism. It's a piece of journalism about a piece of journalistic malpractice. Both of them published in the pages of Rolling Stone. Columbia concluded that Rolling Stone failed to engage in basic, even routine journalistic practice before publishing its story about a brutal gang rape that a student claims she was subjected to at a UVA frat party. Overnight, Rolling Stone retracted the story but did not fire the reporter or her editors. The piece was a bombshell with more views online than any non-celebrity piece Rolling Stone has ever published. The local police found no evidence to back up the student's claims. 

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: There was no witnesses, no victims. 

WRIGHT: Now, Columbia is giving the magazine a lesson in journalism 101. Simple things that could have prevented the fiasco, concluding the reporter and editors failed to check even the most basic details of the story, failed to give the accused a fair opportunity to respond and allowed their trust in one source to override the basic tenets of investigative journalism. 

KELLY MCBRIDE (VP of Academic Programs, The Poynter Institute): All of the checks and balances on the story failed in this case. 

WRIGHT: The scandal has tarnished the reputation of the magazine that was the home of Hunter S. Thompson and more recently brought down the Army general commanding U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Speaking to the New York Times today, Publisher Jan Wenner says the problems with the piece start at the source, accusing her of manipulating the magazine's journalism process and appeared to lay the blame partly on her door step. Overnight, the UVA president issued a statement noting "irresponsible journalism unjustly damaged the reputations of many innocent individuals and the University of Virginia." So far, no word from the fraternity Phi Kappa Psi The reporter herself, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, calling the review of her work a brutal and humbling experience and offering her apologies to Rolling Stone readers to UVA and to the victims of sexual assault. From top to bottom a case of journalistic malpractice and not surprising if this opens the door so some lawsuits, George. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: You're absolutely right, David. Boy, you read the report and hard to imagine how this got in the magazine in the first place. Okay, thanks very much.