The Corner

Rolling Stone Pays the Price for its Malice

This story will no doubt get lost with election day and the resulting apocalypse dominating the headlines, but it’s important nonetheless. A Virginia jury just imposed a $3 million liability verdict on Rolling Stone and its reporter, Sabrina Erdely, for their dreadful campus rape story:

A federal jury awarded a University of Virginia associate dean $3 million in damages on Friday for Rolling Stone magazine’s portrayal of the administrator in its 2014 “A Rape on Campus” story that was later retracted. The 10 jurors determined the story’s author Sabrina Erdely, the magazine, and its publisher acted with “actual malice” and were liable for defaming UVA dean for sexual violence issues, Nicole Eramo. Erdely was ordered to pay $2 million and Rolling Stone $1 million.

Rolling Stone’s troubles are hardly over. The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity — the frat that Erdely, her “source,” and the magazine accused of committing a fictional gang rape — still has its own $25 million suit pending. The trial judge denied Rolling Stone’s motion to dismiss the case, and it will likely face yet another jury soon enough. 

Over at The Federalist, Mollie Hemingway takes apart the magazine’s pitiful excuse for an apology and concludes with this:

This casual response to the jury’s finding of defamation with malice reflects what journalism has become, an enterprise focused on progressive political activism at the expense of truth. This is nothing less than a fancier “fake, but accurate” defense that was mocked when Dan Rather offered it many years ago.

This year, two media companies — Gawker and Rolling Stone — have been brought low by their own unethical behavior. In general, the media have pushed things too far in terms of going after ordinary people. They can’t keep doing this and expect not to deal with the consequences. May the punishment they suffer be severe enough to make others reconsider the harm such journalism causes.

There are journalists who are fond of describing their job as “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.” As Mollie notes, I’d rather they just try to report the truth. After all, when they pursue “social justice” over justice and narrative over veracity, they tend to simply afflict their enemies and comfort their friends.