Jann Wenner defends Rolling Stone's retracted campus rape story
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So what's Jann Wenner been smoking?
Rolling Stone's fabled co-founder "said in a video deposition that he disagreed with a top editor's decision to retract the article depicting a grisly but discredited tale of gang rape at the University of Virginia." (USA Today)
"I do not stand by it," Wenner said. "We do not retract the whole story."
OK, one more time: "Wenner said in the video that although the magazine no longer stands by Jackie's account, it never retracted the entire article and didn't intend to. After being asked to read the magazine's April 2015 note written by then-Managing Editor Will Dana which said 'we are officially retracting 'A Rape on Campus,' Wenner said he believes that retraction is 'inaccurate.'" (The Associated Press)
Rolling Stone had the Columbia School of Journalism analyze the debacle of "Rape on Campus," the tale of alleged rape at a fraternity. The report "details massive departures from the basic norms of original reporting," as The Washington Post put it, arguably understatedly. (The Washington Post)
It was the comprehensive handiwork of Dean Steve Coll, Academic Affairs Dean Sheila Coronel and Columbia research scholar Derek Kravitz. It was damning. Wenner's video deposition, a testament to Kremlin-like historical revisionism, comes in an ongoing defamation trial in Virginia that results from a lawsuit brought by a university official. She was depicted in the story as passive amid allegations of campus sexual abuse and as a symbol of university mishandling of whole topic.
He's lucky that the trial is of scant media interest during the presidential campaign. His deposition is as porous as the story's own reporting and fact-checking. The story, and the Columbia dissection, should be mainstays of journalism curriculums long after Wenner, the Rolling Stones, even Miley Cyrus and Kanye West are no longer with us.
Says Steve Brill, the journalist-media entrepreneur who also teaches journalism at Yale University:
"Years of drug abuse have obviously caught up with him."
Thiel defends Trump
Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley tech mogul who brought Gawker down by financing Hulk Hogan's lawsuit, will take questions about Trump at a National Press Club event in Washington this morning. It will be live-streamed at 11 a.m. Eastern.
A discordant note for music industry
A nice Wall Street tale this morning: "In the latest challenge for the battered music industry, pirates are flooding Amazon.com Inc. and other online retailers with counterfeit CDs that often cost nearly as much as the official versions and increasingly are difficult to distinguish from the real goods." (The Wall Street Journal)
AT&T-Time Warner "panic"
"The dealmakers behind the proposed mega-merger of AT&T and Time Warner have accomplished the impossible: uniting Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in their condemnation of the deal." (The Guardian)
Clickbait for Forbes
If you checked out the Forbes site last night looking for a deep analysis of Clinton-Trump tax plans, the state of the housing market or corporate impact of the Brexit vote, you probably missed it. Maybe they were there, but an Oct. 12 dramatic expose was by far its most touted work product: "The Highest-Paid Dead Celebrities Of 2016." It had 76,602 pageviews.
Oh, OK, let's pander: "The March sale of Michael Jackson’s half of the Sony/ATV music publishing catalog, famous for its library of Beatles tunes, for $750 million puts him at the top of our annual ranking...Jackson’s total pretax payday of $825 million ranks as the biggest annual haul by any celeb dead or alive."
An exception that proves a depressing rule
You surely missed this series of stories in Newsday, which is no surprise. They were about classic corruption and political conflict of interest on Long Island, but they weren't national in scope, just local stuff. Still, they just prompted the federal indictments of two politicians and serve as a reminder of the important role in a democracy of a local paper, especially as more and more don't expend the resources needed to do exactly this sort of arduous, systematic but non-clickbait journalism. (Newsday)
"I know a guy"
Pun intended, The New York Times's Dan Barry knocked it out of the park with the tale of a professional baseball player and onetime real Major League prospect who wound up a mob hit man. (The New York Times) What was the background for a tale about a guy no longer with us?
"In short, I used to write a lot about the mob in Rhode Island for the Providence Journal, and I knew of Lerner. I knew in particular of his role in the Marfeo-Melei hit in Pannone's Market, a famous moment in underworld lore, though I thought back then that stories of his baseball career were apocryphal. He got out of prison while I was at the Journal, and then he vanished."
"...Flash forward a quarter century later, and I'm talking to a guy, and he mentions 'Pro' Lerner, and it dawns on me, after having written 'Bottom of the 33rd,' (about an epic minor league game) that if Lerner actually played pro ball...He was — 10 years, roughly, all over this country. That got me to thinking about the sudden shift in careers, which got me to digging up FBI documents and talking to people, including a couple of gangsters from the old days who knew Lerner."
It's a tale of a stunning change in a life's course, a totally justified penalty, deep remorse and a search for redemption.
The Comey "bombshell"
If ever there was a disjoint between the elite press and at least my neck of the woods. A new Hillary Clinton maybe-email-"scandal" consumed cable news and major papers on Friday.
On a block of white-collar professionals on Chicago's North Side, it seemed a non-story. People either did not know about it, didn't care if they did and said it wouldn't impact their (typically unequivocal) views of either Clinton or Trump. The reaction reflected more than the local distraction of the Cubs in the World Series, speaking to a larger disassociation from the campaign and the press echo chamber.
The press was naturally consumed with the political impact. But the real story is the disarray within the Justice Department and ineptitude of Attorney General Loretta Lynch. As a former top Justice official in a Democratic administration put it to me, "We don't have a functioning AG on this matter because of her earlier mistake in meeting with Bill Clinton. So (FBI Director James) Comey was left to make a quick headstrong mistake — with nobody with ability to get him to slow down, think twice. The FBI and DOJ are both tainted."
The NFL isn't suffering from just dropping TV ratings
"Another possible headache for the NFL to go along with its 11% Nielsen ratings drop so far this season: overall consumer perception of the league is down significantly from a year ago." (BrandIndex) From a marketing perspective, "Questions around player safety, the 'Deflategate' controversy and players’ off-field troubles corresponded to dips in consumer perception of the league over the past two years. These controversies seem to have allowed Major League Baseball to dominate consumer perception between the two sports since late 2014."
The big sigh of relief
"FORCE PLAY" is The Chicago Sun-Times page one headline after the Cubs stayed alive in the World Series with a 3-2 win over Cleveland. "CUBS STILL HAVE A PULSE."
A tragedy's postscript
"Marlins star Jose Fernandez was legally drunk, had cocaine in blood when he died, medical examiner says" (The Miami Herald) This came a day after the paper The paper sued the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner for refusing to release documents relevant to the pitching star's fatal boating accident.
Mere coincidence? Of course not. It resulted directly from the newspaper's lawsuit. The paper was informed by the county that it was simply going to produce the toxicology report and autopsy. That prompted its quick action to litigate. Lawyers for the county then informed the newspaper on Friday of their 180-degree switch.
When I tracked down Rick Hirsch, the paper's managing editor, on Sunday, he said the depressingly obvious: "It should not take a lawsuit for government to be transparent. The law was the same before our suit as it was after."
He's correct. But it's also true that in an era of declining profits, if any profits much at all, the list is growing of media operations without the resolve to spend money to protest such total folderol as withholding an autopsy report.
A six-hour interview with Warren Beatty
"Of course, Mr. Beatty himself carefully curates what information he lets become public. During our interview, he was exacting about what was on the record and off, and he keeps a few stories in rotation. Several anecdotes that he meted out to me — his meeting Marilyn Monroe at Peter Lawford’s, how he calls his children “four Eastern European countries,” his discovery decades ago that Hughes rented a slew of suites and bungalows at the Beverly Hilton — ended up in his November profile in Vanity Fair." (The New York Times)
The morning babble
"Fox & Friends" offered chyrons on steroids, perhaps job-sharing with the Murdoch-owned New York Post copy desk: “They’ve got mail: Laptop used by Weiner, Abedin had 650K emails”..."Final Huma-iliation”..."Huma in hot water”..."Communication breakdown”..."E-nailed"
CNN's "New Day" pundit David Gregory pooh-poohed the substantive significance of it all and noted FBI Director Comey's independence and that the Clinton camp had decided to go after him because they are convinced there's no mishandling of classified data.
On MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Mika Brzezinski called the controversy "a self-inflicted, massive wound. Democrats nominated someone who is under an FBI investigation for having a private server, among other things." Scarborough alluded to lots of purportedly erroneous pro-Clinton information spun this weekend, saying he is "stunned" by the purportedly poor reporting but offering none of his show's independent, accurate own reporting. Oh, well.
Absent same, there are "10 Questions (and Answers) About New Email Trove" that he and viewers could check out. (The New York Times) They did some reporting.