What Went Wrong? Rolling Stone's UVA Rape Report Was a 'Journalistic Failure,' New Report Says
Two deans and a post-graduate researcher at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism spent months investigating how the story was reported, written and edited
The Rolling Stone story about the alleged gang rape of a woman identified only as “Jackie” at a University of Virginia fraternity was a “journalistic failure that was avoidable,” according to a review conducted by Columbia University’s graduate school of journalism.
“The failure encompassed reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking,” the report, which was released on Sunday, said.
“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,” the report continued.
Rolling Stone and Columbia University released the report simultaneously at 8 p.m. on Easter Sunday.
“This report was painful reading, to me personally and to all of us at Rolling Stone,” the magazine’s managing editor, Will Dana, wrote in an editor’s note with the report.
“With its publication we are officially retracting ‘A Rape on Campus,’ ” he said.
Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the article’s author and a contributing editor at the magazine, apologized as well, according to The Washington Post.
“I want to offer my deepest apologies: to Rolling Stone readers, to my Rolling Stone editors and colleagues, to the UVA community, and to any victims of sexual assault who may feel fearful as a result of my article,” Erdely said in a statement.
“In the case of Jackie and her account of her traumatic rape, I did not go far enough to verify her story,” Erdely continued.
Columbia will hold a news conference at noon on Monday to further discuss the report’s findings.
Erdley’s 9,000 word story A Rape on Campus details how seven fraternity members allegedly took turns raping a young woman only identified as “Jackie” for three hours.
The story caused an uproar when it was released on Nov. 19 and prompted UVA President Teresa Sullivan to immediately suspend all fraternity activities on campus and local police to open an investigation into the alleged sexual assault.
But the story quickly began to unravel after Erdley said she’d never tried to contact any of the accused due to an agreement she’d made with Jackie.
In late December, the magazine announced Columbia University’s graduate journalism program would do an analysis of what went wrong with the reporting, writing and editing of the story.
On March 23, Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo said at a news conference that his investigators, who received no cooperation from Jackie, found no evidence to support any allegations, but would continue to keep their case open.