The Rolling Stone Magazine has retracted a discredited story about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia after a devastating independent review by Columbia University deemed it a “journalistic failure that was avoidable.”
“The report was painful reading, to me personally and to all of us at Rolling Stone,” Will Dana, the magazine’s managing editor, said in an editor’s note appended to the outside review published on Rolling Stone’s website Sunday, 5th April and cross-published on the website of the Columbia Journalism Review magazine. “It is also, in its own way, a fascinating document — a piece of journalism … about a failure of journalism.”
The trouble began when Rolling Stone writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely set out to find a single story that would be “emblematic” of what rape and sexual harassment is like on American campuses, according to the Columbia University report.
Erdely’s explosive story, published in Rolling Stone in November, said Jackie had been attacked and gang-raped for hours by seven men at a fraternity house as one of her fellow lifeguards from the university pool cheered them on. The story got 2.7 million page views, the most of any non-celebrity story in Rolling Stone’s online history.
The Columbia report was hardly the first to find fault with the story. Other media quickly uncovered discrepancies, and in March, Charlottesville, Virginia, police announced that they could find no evidence that the attack happened. Columbia’s report reached a similar conclusion, calling the story a failure of journalism.
“The failure encompassed reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking,” wrote the Columbia authors, Sheila Coronel, dean of academic affairs at Columbia Journalism School; Steve Coll, the journalism school dean; and Derek Kravitz, a postgraduate research scholar at the journalism school.
“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.” according to the authors. as reported in New York Times.