Rolling Stone and the perils of confirmation bias

The magazine is guilty of journalistic malpractice

(Image credit: (Illustrated AP Photo/Steve Helber, File))

Last year, Rolling Stone published a blockbuster investigative report about rape and the University of Virginia. In "A Rape on Campus," reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely painted a picture of administrative and cultural betrayal at UVA, with a central focal point: "Jackie," who alleged that she was gang raped at the fraternity Phi Kappa Psi. Jackie told Erdely that her friends discouraged her from reporting the attack, and that when she finally did go to the school's administration, they didn't support her at all. Erdely, who had been looking for a case to use as a framework to expose the "rape culture" on campuses, had found exactly what she wanted.

That was a problem. But as the Columbia School of Journalism reported after a four-month investigation of this fatally flawed Rolling Stone article, it was hardly the only problem. Nor was it the issue that reflected worst on Rolling Stone, which ended up in the strange position of endorsing both their policies and their personnel while promising not to produce another instance of imagineered fabulism in the future.

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Edward Morrissey

Edward Morrissey has been writing about politics since 2003 in his blog, Captain's Quarters, and now writes for His columns have appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Post, The New York Sun, the Washington Times, and other newspapers. Morrissey has a daily Internet talk show on politics and culture at Hot Air. Since 2004, Morrissey has had a weekend talk radio show in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and often fills in as a guest on Salem Radio Network's nationally-syndicated shows. He lives in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota with his wife, son and daughter-in-law, and his two granddaughters. Morrissey's new book, GOING RED, will be published by Crown Forum on April 5, 2016.