US

Rolling Stone — And Why Americans Distrust The Media

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
Font Size:

Members of the mainstream media sometimes scoff at new media outlets and reporters, but a good look at the MSM’s journalistic rap sheet implies there is little to boast about.

Over at Politico Magazine, Jack Shafer lists a few recent scandals: “Janet Cooke at the Washington Post; The Hitler Diaries (various publications); Stephen Glass at the New Republic, George, and, um, Rolling Stone; Jayson Blair at the New York Times; Jack Kelley at USA Today; NBC’s “exploding pickup truck”; CNN’s Tailwind story; CBS’s “Rathergate” coverage; Mike Daisey’s Apple story on This American Life; Jonah Lehrer (fabrication in his book), and CBS again (Lara Logan on Benghazi).”

(I might add the Duke lacrosse rape allegation — and the coverage surrounding the accusations — as another.)

But at least, you say, when the MSM messes up, they fess up. And there are consequences. Heads roll!, right? As Shafer notes, “Typically, a few culpable parties are fired, retired or otherwise chased off in the wake of a post-mortem, but such purges are mostly symbolic and only punctuate the interval between transgressions.”

Well, that didn’t happen at Rolling Stone.

The MSM already faces concerns about political bias, but add to that larger questions about honesty and competence, and the facade that these “serious” outlets are any better than their scrappy new media competitors — sites that are at least transparent about their ideological points of view — begins to evaporate.

When an outlet as historically significant as Rolling Stone refuses to fire Sabrina Rubin Erdely for her infamous and erroneous tale about gang rape at the University of Virginia, it presumably makes it harder to criticize other outlets for sticking by reporters who make egregious errors. Americans already distrust the media. And as evidence continues to mount, it’s becoming clear this is not a purely irrational trend.