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Rolling Stone, What Went Wrong


Rolling Stone has officially retracted its story about an alleged sexual assault on the University of Virginia campus and issued an apology for its journalism "failure."

A report by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism commissioned by Rolling Stone, released Sunday night, revealed "A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA" was full of errors that were "avoidable". Rolling Stone published the report in full.

The published story, which was written by reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely, "glossed over the gaps in the magazine's reporting by using pseudonyms and by failing to state where important information had come from," according to the report. It detailed an alleged brutal gang rape of a student, "Jackie", at one of the school's fraternities. The article immediately made waves and caused the school's president to suspend all fraternities for the rest of the semester.

Erdely apologized to readers, colleagues and "any victims of sexual assault who may feel fearful as a result of my article" via a statement in the New York Times.

"I did not go far enough to verify her story," Erdely said in her statement. "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."

Jann Wenner, the magazine's publisher, also told the New York Times that Erdely would keep her job as well as managing editor Will Dana and article editor Sean Woods. Wenner described the story's source as a "really expert fabulist storyteller" who "managed to manipulate" the magazine's process.

Columbia's report detailed three main errors in the story's efforts, which are the magazine's failure to identify the alleged attackers, the failure of Erdely to contact Jackie's three friends and the failure to give the school's fraternity a chance to respond.

"The reporter did not make an effort, an independent effort, to identify those three people," Steve Coll, dean of the Columbia journalism school, said in an interview accompanying the report. "And yet, by her first draft, we see that she always intended to write in a derogatory way about them.

Palma Pustilnik, a lawyer who has spoken for Jackie, told NBC News on Sunday that she and her client had no comment on the Columbia report.