The report by the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism demolishes the many falsehoods presented by Sabrina Rubin Erdely in her infamous Rolling Stone article. Any reputable publication would have fired her and the editors associated with this story, but Rolling Stone is not that kind of magazine: it is keeping all the rogues on its payroll. That is their business. It is my business to correct the record.
According to the New York Times, which conducted interviews on this story, publisher Jann W. Wenner insists that Erdely’s dishonesty “represented an isolated and unusual episode.” Similarly, top editor Will Dana, whose responsibility it was to fact-check her article, said this “was not the result of patterns in the work of these people.” (Nice to know he exculpates himself.) Both are wrong.
On September 20, 2011, I exposed Erdely as an irresponsible journalist who smeared the Archdiocese of Philadelphia (click here to read my account). The sensationalistic title of her piece, “The Catholic Church’s Secret Sex-Crime Files,” which appeared in the September 15 edition of Rolling Stone, was not only inaccurate and dishonest, it fed every negative stereotype there is about the Catholic Church.
Erdely’s article is replete with omissions: if the reader actually knew what she failed to report, it would have seriously undercut her narrative. She also made several factual errors, misrepresented the timeline of important events, and made comments so patently stupid that no sentient Catholic would ever make.
It is therefore wrong to maintain that Erdely’s piece was “isolated,” “unusual,” and “not the result of patterns.” Rolling Stone had a chance to come clean and start anew. But it blew it. Its credibility is shot.