It was a "journalistic failure." Rolling Stone magazine apologized and retracted its discredited article last night about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia. The magazine took the action after a report from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism detailed the flawed editorial process behind the article. "The failure encompassed reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking," says the critique, which asserts that the "journalistic failure" could have been avoided. Rolling Stone asked for the independent review after other news outlets exposed flaws in the November article, "A Rape on Campus." "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," wrote managing editor Will Dana.
The article's author, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, apologized to readers, colleagues, and "any victims of sexual assault who may feel fearful as a result of my article." Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner appeared less apologetic, notes the New York Times, calling alleged victim "Jackie" a "really expert fabulist storyteller." He added that while he wasn't victim-blaming, "obviously there is something here that is untruthful, and something sits at her doorstep.” Dana and Erdely have said they had been too accommodating of requests from "Jackie" that limited their ability to report the story because she said she was a rape victim and asked them not to contact others to corroborate. However, Columbia's report says Rolling Stone also failed to investigate leads even when "Jackie" had not specifically asked them not to. "The editors made judgments about attribution, fact-checking and verification that greatly increased their risks of error but had little or nothing to do with protecting Jackie's position," it says.