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Rolling Stone Retracts 'A Rape on Campus' Article

Posted: Updated: Apr 19, 2015 09:33 PM
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

After conducting a four-month investigation, the Columbia School of Journalism has released its review of Rolling Stone's discredited University of Virginia gang rape expose. The review calls the article a failure of reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking. It further states that "the magazine's failure may have spread the idea that many women invent rape allegations."

In the The Rolling Stone article, a UVA student known as 'Jackie' accused members of a UVA fraternity of gang raping her at the fraternity house, leaving her bloodied and horrified. The article also harshly criticized UVA Dean Nicole Eramo who is responsible for helping survivors of sexual assault.

Soon after being published, the disturbing allegations in the November article titled 'A Rape on Campus' quickly fell apart. A March 2015 police investigation found that the incident, as described in Rolling Stone, never happened. 

The Columbia review says the author, Sabrina Erdely described Jackie, the primary subject of the article, as a challenging source, but that her concerns about Jackie's validity didn't start until a week after publication.

The full Columbia School of Journalism investigation has been published online by the Columbia Journalism Review and Rolling Stone and it answers questions, including what went wrong in the writer's reporting process.

Students say they're feeling a mixture of emotions right now, but overall, they hope the investigation can help heal UVA after the article accused men in the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity of gang raping a student named Jackie.

"I think what the Columbia report is going to provide is that everyone who went through this is still pursuing an education, and this experience, as horrific and traumatic as it was, was an educational experience. So I think to have some outside commentary on the forces of Rolling Stone and what it did to our community and what it meant to journalistic integrity will add to the academic nature of the experience," says Abraham Axler, UVA student body president.

Alex Pinkleton, one of Jackie's friends quoted in the original Rolling Stone article and the new Columbia School of Journalism investigation piece says the author reached out to her to apologize but she chose not to respond because, "We both needed time to process what was happening before having a conversation."

Rolling Stone will publish a condensed version of the report in its April 8 edition.

The Columbia Journalism Review will present the investigation Monday at noon at a press conference. You can tune in to the press conference online by clicking here


News Release: Statement from Sabrina Rubin Erdely:

The past few months, since my Rolling Stone article “A Rape on Campus” was first called into question, have been among the most painful of my life. 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 UVA community, and to any victims of sexual assault who may feel fearful as a result of my article.

Over my 20 years of working as an investigative journalist—including at Rolling Stone, a magazine I grew up loving and am honored to work for—I have often dealt with sensitive topics and sources. In writing each of these stories I must weigh my compassion against my journalistic duty to find the truth. However, in the case of Jackie and her account of her traumatic rape, I did not go far enough to verify her story. I allowed my concern for Jackie's well-being, my fear of re-traumatizing her, and my confidence in her credibility to take the place of more questioning and more facts. These are mistakes I will not make again.

Reporting on rape has unique challenges, but the journalist still has the responsibility to get it right. I hope that my mistakes in reporting this story do not silence the voices of victims that need to be heard.
 


News Release: UVA President Teresa A. Sullivan Statement Regarding Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism Report

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., April 5, 2015 – University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan issued the following statement today regarding the findings of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism review of the reporting and editorial decisions of the Rolling Stone's Nov. 19 article “A Rape on Campus.”

Statement from President Sullivan:

“Rolling Stone's story, "A Rape on Campus," did nothing to combat sexual violence, and it damaged serious efforts to address the issue. Irresponsible journalism unjustly damaged the reputations of many innocent individuals and the University of Virginia. Rolling Stone falsely accused some University of Virginia students of heinous, criminal acts, and falsely depicted others as indifferent to the suffering of their classmate. The story portrayed University staff members as manipulative and callous toward victims of sexual assault. Such false depictions reinforce the reluctance sexual assault victims already feel about reporting their experience, lest they be doubted or ignored.

“The Charlottesville Police Department investigation confirms that far from being callous, our staff members are diligent and devoted in supporting and caring for students. I offer our community's genuine gratitude for their devotion and perseverance in their service.

“Sexual violence is a serious issue for our society, and it requires the focus and attention of all in our communities. Long before Rolling Stone published its article, the University of Virginia was working to confront sexual violence. And we will continue to implement substantive reforms to improve culture, prevent violence, and respond to acts of violence when they occur. Our highest priority is to ensure the safety of our students so they can learn and achieve their personal potential in an environment of trust and security. We will continue to work tirelessly in pursuit of that goal.
 


News Release: One Less at The University of Virginia

In light of Columbia Journalism's review of the Rolling Stone article "A Rape on Campus", One Less at UVA would like to release the following statement:

Since the founding of One Less in 2013, our primary mission has been to believe, affirm, and support survivors of sexual assault. We actively educate members of the University of Virginia community about consent, bystander intervention, University and Charlottesville resources, and survivor support. Over the past four months, our community has been shaken by the unfortunate misrepresentation of sexual assault on college campuses by Rolling Stone magazine.

It is misleading that Rolling Stone chose one extreme case to represent college sexual assault, when, in reality, we know that sexual assault presents itself through a range of experiences.

We are fearful that hostile reactions to the fallout of the Rolling Stone article will leave many survivors of violence feeling unsupported and deterred from seeking resources. Though these voices are loud, there are many more that are here for you. http://www.virginia.edu/sexualviolence/resources.html

We encourage our friends in the University community to support their peers who may be going through a traumatic experience. We remain steadfast in our commitment to reduce violence in our community.

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