Photo: Mel Evans/AP
It seems almost like a waste of time to really tear into Jezebel. The site basically operates as a perpetual feminist umbrage machine and no criticism, no matter how legitimate, will affect the way it comports itself or make it think twice the next time there's an opportunity to go from zero-to-outrage in 3.5 seconds. But even if you traffic largely in opinion, there are a couple of things that are no-nos if you want to be taken the least bit seriously as a media outlet: one is that you can have your own viewpoints but not your own facts -- because that's dishonest -- and two is that you can't scrawl out attacks that amount to bald-faced hypocrisy.
On Monday Jezebel editor Erin Gloria Ryan published an exclusive which revealed that newly crowned Miss America Kira Kazantsev was reportedly tossed out of her sorority at Hofstra last year for excessive hazing. According to a "tipster" to the site, Kazantsev made the lives of recruits to Alpha Pi "a living hell" and this is why she was eventually asked to leave. So far, so good, although it's tough to completely trust any anonymous source to a Gawker Media outlet when you consider that the group allows J.K. Trotter to continue writing hilariously horseshit stories about Shepard Smith based on supposed "insider information." Jezebel's reporting on its story, however, is about as even-handed as you're ever going to get from that site, particularly given that Erin Gloria Ryan makes it clear that she doesn't like the Miss America Pageant anyway. Maybe that's to be commended.
So yesterday, Kira Kazantsev appeared on ABC's Good Morning America to answer the accusations against her. ABC is the network that airs the Miss America Pageant and GMA is a morning show, which adds up to almost no chance that someone like Kazantsev is going to be hung out to dry. But the show ran a detailed package on the issue then let Kazantsev sit with Lara Spencer for a one-on-one. For the most part it was the kind of softball interview you could've seen coming from a mile away, and most people would be well within their right to wonder aloud why a journalistic organization like ABC News would permit one of its ostensible news programs to function as a PR department for a property embroiled in controversy. (It was a hack move -- no doubt about it.) The thing is, Erin Gloria Ryan isn't one of those people. She can't really lecture another outlet on journalistic credibility, even if she's self-effacing about it, because Jezebel helped to fuel the viral flames of an entirely bullshit story a couple of weeks ago, got the story completely wrong, and still hasn't in any way corrected itself.
We've mentioned this before, but Jezebel was one of the first outlets out of the gate to fire off a giant roman candle of righteous fury regarding the detainment of Django Unchained actress Danièle Watts two weeks ago. Lest you remain curious whether the somewhat magnanimous tone of Ryan's Miss America piece was part of a recent trend at Jezebel, here's how writer Isha Aran's story on Watts opened on September 14th.
Yet again, YET AGAIN, police officers have demonstrated a penchant for the world's worst cocktail of racism and aggression, having briefly taken into custody a black woman they assumed was a prostitute. Why, you ask? Because she was publicly displaying affection with a white man, who in reality is her partner. What the ever loving fuck.
Right. Yet again the cops were a bunch of racist assholes. Except that they weren't -- not this time.
Given that Aran's piece can be filed under opinion -- as well as the subtle "THAT'S RACIST" label that sits right under Aran's byline -- maybe you'd be inclined to allow Jezebel some leeway in making assumptions. The problem with that is, again, that you're allowed to have viewpoints but they have to be based on facts. Aran gets facts wrong within her piece, an example being her assertion that Watts was detained by the Studio City Police Department -- a claim made by Watts herself in her Facebook post detailing her supposed ordeal. What this shows is that Aran didn't actually check out the story herself before ranting about it online to her audience, she simply parroted the claims that Watts had made and took them as absolute fact. The truth is that there is no Studio City Police Department. It just doesn't exist. Yet that simple error by Aran remains there, uncorrected, for all to see.
All of this leads us to the fact that yesterday Erin Gloria Ryan wrote a scathing little follow-up to the GMA story in which she berated ABC for its lack of journalistic credibility in covering for Kira Kazantsev.
“It should... be noted that in ‘reporting’ on this story, GMA did not reach out to me or anyone at Jezebel for comment or clarification; they just had Kazantsev on to deliver her talking points to a sympathetic anchor on the TV home of Miss America."
Yes, if only a news outlet had reached out and gotten more information on a story before simply running with it in a way that confirmed that outlet's own biases. Jesus Christ.
Maybe ABC really does deserve to be called out for the way it handled the Miss America story. Maybe the network should be accused of "circling the wagons" instead of changing direction in the face of new and potentially damning information. The problem is that Erin Gloria Ryan can't do it and be taken seriously. Not until she cleans up her own house a little.