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Tags: erdely | reporter | apologize | university of virginia | rape | rolling stone

Rolling Stone Retracts UVa Rape Story, Reporter Apologizes

By    |   Sunday, 05 April 2015 09:19 PM EDT

Rolling Stone officially retracted the November campus rape story that stirred controversy and published a scathing investigative report on the magazine's journalistic failures on Sunday.

The article's author, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, broke her four-month silence to publicly apologize.

Erdely, who has written for Rolling Stone and other national publications for years, called reading the report on her failures a "brutal and humbling experience" and offered apologies to Rolling Stone’s readers, her editors and colleagues, to the University of Virginia community, and "to any victims of sexual assault who may feel fearful as a result of my article."

Rolling Stone publisher Jann S. Wenner told The New York Times the article was flawed, but "represented an isolated and unusual episode."

Wenner told the Times that Erdely would continue as a freelance writer and that Managing Editor Will Dana, the article's editor Sean Woods and the fact checker, who was not named because she had no decision-making ability on publication, would not be fired.

The report was written by the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism at the request of Rolling Stone. It was published in full online, and an edited version of the 13,000-word report will be published in the print version of the magazine's April issue.

In an editor's note, Dana called the report "painful reading."

"It is also, in its own way, a fascinating document … about a failure of journalism," Dana wrote.

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

In the story, a female student at the University of Virginia using the pseudonym "Jackie," said she was raped by seven members of a campus fraternity. The story sparked outrage and led to the university's president suspending all fraternity activities on campus.

But Jackie's story didn't match the accounts of three friends who were with her the night of the alleged attack, nor did it match accounts she had given on campus about the incident.

Erdely's reporting techniques have been called into question because she quoted Jackie's friends in the story, but did not contact them, instead relying only on Jackie's account of what they had said. Erdely also did not attempt to contact the attackers at Jackie's request.

The three friends later told The Washington Post the events as they saw them did not match the Rolling Stone story. They told the Columbia writers they would have told Rolling Stone the same had they been contacted for the story.

The report says Erdely was too deferential to Jackie, fearing both that she would re-open wounds and that she would lose her cooperation. Even when parts of Jackie's story didn't check out, Erdely and editors moved ahead with the story anyway.

It wasn't until other publications began to question the reporting that Erdely pressed again for Jackie to name the man who initiated the alleged assault. When Jackie stumbled on how to spell his last name, despite the vivid details she had given earlier, Erdely suspected Jackie had not been truthful.

Dana and Wenner say Rolling Stone will change its practices.

"We are not going to cut those corners even for the most sympathetic reasons," the told the Times.

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Sabrina Rubin Erdely will issue a public apology for the now-discredited campus gang rape story she published in Rolling Stone late last year and the magazine's website will remove the online version, CNN reports.
erdely, reporter, apologize, university of virginia, rape, rolling stone
Sunday, 05 April 2015 09:19 PM
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