Other than That, Mrs. Lincoln, How Was the Play?
Maybe no one ever read Rolling Stone magazine for truth and facts. Closer to the truth might be, who reads it at all anymore?
The old canard is that Jann Wenner, a “media visionary,” started Rolling Stone at his kitchen table in 1967. It is now valued at somewhere north of $100 million. “But it all went pear-shaped in the end.”
Under Jann Wenner’s tutorage, the first music magazine to take the form seriously, Rolling Stone blossomed from an indie magazine to a cornerstone of music journalism.
When Time correspondent David Marchese asked Wenner, 77, why there were no women or people of color among the “masters” in his latest book, The Masters, Wenner bragged that his selection of artists over the decades was “kind of intuitive” and not “deliberate” and that he didn’t find women rock artists to be “articulate enough” on an “intellectual level.”
Only White Men
David Marchese magnanimously gave Wenner another chance – to put his opinions in different words.
The scornful Wenner continued,
“It’s not that they’re inarticulate, although, go have a deep conversation with Grace Slick or Janis Joplin. Please, be my guest.”
He also didn’t believe Joni Mitchell to be as much “a philosopher of rock ‘n’ roll” as the white men Wenner had interviewed.
Creating a Firestorm
Well, guess what happened next?
Wenner’s sneering comments, “were regarded as racist and sexist,” and Jann Wenner was voted off the board (Rock & Roll Hall of Fame) he helped create.
Mortifying and Illuminating
In 2014, Rolling Stone ran a false UVA story in which Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s account of events proved to be not true. The magazine niche was a mixture of authoritative music and cultural coverage with tough investigative reporting. Wenner’s ego, according to some sources, especially in the UVA case, was too large to allow him to think he had done anything wrong.
From the WSJ’s “Notable & Quotable:” an Interview with David Marchese with Rolling Stone co-founder Jann Wenner (The New York Times, 15 September):
From Time magazine David Marchese:
Rolling Stone had a history of producing certain kinds of stories that ended up being definitive. But there were a handful of stories that raised questions of integrity. The U.Va. campus rape story would be one of those.
Even Hunter S. Thompson—I don’t know that anyone would hold him up as a beacon of factual accuracy, regardless of the literary merit of his stories. Was there anything endemic to Rolling Stone that caused you to put the pursuit of the juicy story ahead of concerns with accuracy?
Jann Wenner: “One word answer: no.”
Marchese: ”Is it just one-offs?
“The University of Virginia story was not a failure of intent, or an attempt to be loose with the facts. You get beyond the factual errors that sank that story, and it was really about the issue of rape and how it affects women on campus, their lack of rights.
Other than this one key fact that the rape described actually was a fabrication of this woman, the rest of the story was bulletproof.”
The Washington Post’s Post Mortum
In 2015, a Columbia journalism school authorized by Wenner and Rolling Stone concluded that the magazine published the story despite the lack of corroboration for Jackie’s account.
Wenner apologized “wholeheartedly” for his sexist, racial remarks. Not so much about the UVA story. No one on the editorial staff ever lost his or her job over the debacle.
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