Rolling Stone staffers “feel terrible” about these events, says Taibbi, who noted that he had no specific knowledge about just how the piece went awry. Taibbi was a longtime Rolling Stone contributor who left for a job at First Look Media launching a digital magazine titled “The Racket,” but that gig didn’t work out. He has since returned to the magazine.
“For people like me and for a lot of the other reporters who’ve worked there over the years, this was a real shock to us because, speaking personally — people laughed at me when I said this on Twitter — what I go through normally in the fact-checking process at that magazine has always been a really difficult, long, thorough, painful process,” said Taibbi. “And that was actually one of the things that always attracted me to working there, which is that I feel safe when I publish things because I feel like it’s been double-checked and, you know, that was always a good feeling. And clearly I think in this particular situation, the controls got broken down somewhere and they’re looking into that. I’m sure they’re coming up with some answers.”
After the Erik Wemple Blog asked about some aspects of the story this week, Rolling Stone spokeswoman Melissa Bruno responded: “Rolling Stone is conducting a thorough internal review of the reporting, editing, and fact-checking of Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s ‘A Rape on Campus.’ Once we have concluded this process, we will have comment on these and other questions.”
After host Don Imus opined that the article may have been driven by an “agenda,” Taibbi said that on his first read, he skipped right to the “more important part” of the story — how the University of Virginia responded to the alleged seven-man gang rape of September 2012. “Obviously individual attacks happen, or maybe in this case they don’t happen, I don’t know, but I don’t think that’s necessarily relevant to the larger issue of how often this takes place and how society is set up to deal with it.”
That response aligns with what Sabrina Rubin Erdely, writer of “A Rape on Campus,” told the Washington Post when her story started to come under scrutiny: “[T]he gang-rape scene that leads the story is the alarming account that Jackie — a person whom I found to be credible — told to me, told her friends, and importantly, what she told the UVA administration, which chose not to act on her allegations in any way — i.e., the overarching point of the article. THAT is the story: the culture that greeted her and so many other UVA women I interviewed, who came forward with allegations, only to be met with indifference.”