Rolling Stone apologises for discredited rape story

2015-04-06 09:19
The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. (Steve Helber, AP)

The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. (Steve Helber, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Virginia - Rolling Stone magazine has apologised and officially retracted its discredited article about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia, and an independent review said the article may cast doubt on future rape accusations.

The review, undertaken at Rolling Stone's request, presented a broad indictment of the magazine's handling of a story that had horrified readers, unleashed widespread protests and sparked a national discussion about sexual assaults on college campuses.

The report released on Sunday from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism on the editorial process called the article a "story of journalistic failure that was avoidable".

The article focused on a student identified only as "Jackie", who said she was raped by seven men at a fraternity house. It also described a hidden culture of sexual violence fuelled by binge drinking at one of the nation's most highly regarded public universities.

The report found, among other things, that Rolling Stone did not try hard enough to find the person Jackie accused of orchestrating the assault.

The independent review began after news media organisations exposed flaws in the November 2014 article, titled "A Rape on Campus". By 5 December, Rolling Stone apologised and acknowledged discrepancies in the article.

'A serious problem'

A four-month police investigation produced no evidence that the attack occurred. Jackie refused to co-operate in the police investigation.

"We would like to apologise 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," the magazine's managing editor, Will Dana, wrote on the publication's website.

"Sexual assault is a serious problem on college campuses, and it is important that rape victims feel comfortable stepping forward. It saddens us to think that their willingness to do so might be diminished by our failings."

In a statement sent to The Associated Press, writer Sabrina Erdely apologised and said she "did not go far enough to verify" the story of the victim.

Dana and Erdely 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, the report said.

Despite its flaws, the article heightened scrutiny of campus sexual assaults amid a campaign by President Barack Obama. The University of Virginia had already been on the Department of Education's list of 55 colleges under investigation for their handling of sex assault violations.

Exploring legal options

The article also prompted university President Teresa Sullivan to temporarily suspend fraternity and sorority social events. Fraternities later agreed to ban kegs, hire security workers and keep at least three fraternity members sober at each event.

In a statement, Sullivan said the article falsely depicted the university as callous toward sexual assault victims, reinforcing their reluctance to come forward.

The fraternity has called the article defamatory and said it was exploring its legal options.

"These false accusations have been extremely damaging to our entire organisation, but we can only begin to imagine the setback this must have dealt to survivors of sexual assault," said Stephen Scipione, president of the Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi, after the Charlottesville police suspended their investigation.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.