All Apologies: NY Mag And Rolling Stone End 2014 With Botched Stories

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Dec 16, 2014 6:30 PM
All Apologies: NY Mag And Rolling Stone End 2014 With Botched Stories

Rolling Stone wasn’t the only magazine that needed to apologize its readers over discrepancies in their reporting. New York Magazine offered its readers an apology after their story about a whiz kid investor turned out to be a complete fabrication (via NY Observer):

Monday’s edition of New York magazine includes an irresistible story about a Stuyvesant High senior named Mohammed Islam who had made a fortune investing in the stock market. Reporter Jessica Pressler wrote regarding the precise number, “Though he is shy about the $72 million number, he confirmed his net worth is in the “’high eight figures.’” The New York Post followed up with a story of its own, with the fat figure playing a key role in the headline: “High school student scores $72M playing the stock market.”

And now it turns out, the real number is … zero.

In an exclusive interview with Mr. Islam and his friend Damir Tulemaganbetov, who also featured heavily in the New York story, the baby faced boys who dress in suits with tie clips came clean. Swept up in a tide of media adulation, they made the whole thing up.

The Observer contacted Islam who said that he has no idea where Pressler got the $72 million figure. “The number’s a rumor,” he said.

When the story’s integrity began to disintegrate, it seems that Pressler tried to take credit for debunking her own story. Yet, her tweets, which are now protected, show that she insisted her story was true and that she saw a bank statement confirming the figure. “I'm comfortable with what's in the piece,” she tweeted on December 15.

Well, we now know this story is false. Here’s their apology:

In the most recent edition of New York, its annual Reasons to Love New York issue, the magazine published a story about a Stuyvesant High School senior named Mohammed Islam, who was rumored to have made $72 million trading stocks. Islam said his net worth was in the "high eight figures." As part of the research process, the magazine sent a fact-checker to Stuyvesant, where Islam produced a document that appeared to be a Chase bank statement attesting to an eight-figure bank account.

After the story's publication, people questioned the $72 million figure in the headline, which was written by editors based on the rumored figure. The headline was amended. But in an interview with the New York Observer last night, Islam now says his entire story was made up. A source close to the Islam family told the Washington Post that the statements were falsified. We were duped. Our fact-checking process was obviously inadequate; we take full responsibility and we should have known better. New York apologizes to our readers.

Yet, this isn’t the latest version of the apology. Apparently, there was a little doubling down on behalf of NY Mag saying that she saw the statement–and that Islam confirmed it on the record.

 What’s the harm in admitting you’re wrong? We’re human we make mistakes; I’ve made a few of them in my blogging career. The best thing is to do is own it, move on, and learn from it. It’s what our parents teach us when we make mistakes as kids for heaven’s sake.

Additionally, you damage your own credibility by refusing to immediately apologize for a story that’s ends up being something akin to one’s imagination.  In this case, the price tag was $72 million...in Monopoly money.

As for Rolling Stone, it’s a different story; it’s a story about a brutal gang rape that has since been eviscerated for its shoddy journalism and multiple inconsistencies in the accuser’s recollection of events; things that could’ve been addressed if they, you know, dug around a little more.

It’s rational to be more cautious in a sensitive case like this, but not contacting the alleged attackers for a statement, or the three friends that saw Jackie–the alleged victim–on the night of the attack? Just. Wow.

Oh, and as for botching apologies, Rolling Stone wins this month; they actually tried to pass the blame onto Jackie in their initial note to their readers, citing “misplaced” trust. The buck stops with you, Rolling Stone.