The Slatest

Columbia University: Rolling Stone Article on UVA Gang Rape Was “Journalistic Failure”

The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house is seen on the University of Virginia campus on December 6, 2014 in Charlottesville, Virginia.  

Photo by Jay Paul/Getty Images

The verdict is out. And it doesn’t mince words. There’s no getting around that the Rolling Stone article about a gang rape at the University of Virginia was a disaster. From top to bottom. The 12,000-word report is a scathing indictment of the magazine’s entire editorial process in the publication of a shocking story of “Jackie,” who claimed she was gang-raped at a Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house in 2012. As the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism report notes:

Rolling Stone’s repudiation of the main narrative in A Rape on Campus is a story of journalistic failure that was avoidable. The failure encompassed reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking. The magazine set aside or rationalized as unnecessary essential practices of reporting that, if pursued, would likely have led the magazine’s editors to reconsider publishing Jackie’s narrative so prominently, if at all. The published story glossed over the gaps in the magazine’s reporting by using pseudonyms and by failing to state where important information had come from.

Rolling Stone officially retracted the article. And the article’s author, Sabrina Erdely, also apologized:

Reading the Columbia account of the mistakes and misjudgments in my reporting was a brutal and humbling experience. I want to offer my deepest apologies: to Rolling Stone’s readers, to my Rolling Stone editors and colleagues, to the U.V.A. community, and to any victims of sexual assault who may feel fearful as a result of my article.

Will Dana, the magazine’s managing editor, attached a note to the Columbia report:

This report was painful reading, to me personally and to all of us at Rolling Stone. It is also, in its own way, a fascinating document ­— a piece of journalism

About a failure of journalism. With its publication, we are officially retracting ‘A Rape on Campus.’ We are also committing ourselves to a series of recommendations about journalistic practices that are spelled out in the report. We would like to apologize to our readers and to all of those who were damaged by our story and the ensuing fallout, including members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity and UVA administrators and students.