A Columbia Journalism School report says Rolling Stone magazine failed to follow basic journalistic safeguards for a story about an alleged gang rape. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Rolling Stone magazine failed to follow basic journalistic safeguards in publishing a story about an alleged gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity house, according to an outside review of the matter released on Sunday. The discredited story was intended to call attention to the issue of sexual violence on college campuses, but instead "the magazine's failure may have spread the idea that many women invent rape allegations," a team from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism concluded in its critique. It noted that social scientists say false allegations are estimated to account for 2 to 8 percent of all rape reports. The Rolling Stone article, written by contributing editor Sabrina Rubin Erdely and published in November, detailed an alleged 2012 gang rape that a first-year student identified as "Jackie" said she had endured at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house. It also accused the university of tolerating a culture that ignored sexual violence against women. But in December, after coming under a barrage of questions about the story's veracity, Rolling Stone apologized for "discrepancies" in the account and admitted that it never sought comment from seven men accused of the alleged rape. "Rolling Stone's repudiation of the main narrative in 'A Rape on Campus' is a story of journalistic failure that was avoidable," the Columbia team wrote in the report, which the magazine requested and published on its website. "The failure encompassed reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking." The review of the story was led by Steve Coll, dean of the Columbia Journalism School. In an editor's note printed at the top of the report, Rolling Stone Managing Editor Will Dana said the magazine was officially retracting the article and apologized "to all of those who were damaged by our story and the ensuing fallout." It is important that rape victims feel comfortable stepping forward, Dana wrote, "and it saddens us to think that their willingness to do so might be diminished by our failings." The magazine's founding editor, Jann Wenner, said in an interview with the New York Times on Sunday the botched story was an isolated episode and that Erdely would continue to write for the magazine. He also said neither Dana nor Sean Woods, who edited the article, would lose their jobs. While Dana said in his note that Rolling Stone would commit itself to following "a series of recommendations about journalistic practices that are spelled out in the report," the report itself said "Rolling Stone's senior editors are unanimous in the belief that the story's failure does not require them to change their editorial systems."