Rolling Stone Tasks Columbia To Review Highly Criticized UVA Rape Article

Rolling Stone Magazine announced on Monday that Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism has been tasked with reviewing the story behind the alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia in the wake of quite a bit of criticism.

The article under review has been subject to intense scrutiny since its November release and even warranted an apology from the magazine on December 5. The article’s writer, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, hasn’t made any public comments on the questions raised over the accuracy of her work or criticism of her journalistic abilities. It has even been reported that Erdely has made recent attempts to contact some of the individuals involved well after the publication’s release and nationwide attention.

The accuracy of the reporting came under question as various media outlets found inconsistencies in the story of alleged victim, Jackie. More fuel was added to the fire when the fraternity at the heart of the story, Phi Kappa Psi, sent a notice in regards to what they deemed to be false facts within the original article. Three of the friends referenced in the piece also came forward with claims that the article did not portray them accurately and also stated that failed to contact them prior to the piece’s publication. It has come to light that none of Jackie’s supposed attackers were approached for their side of the story either as well, which casts an even darker shadow over the article, the reporting and of the alleged incident.

Rolling Stone editors have not come forward with a full retraction as of yet, but the news of an independent review coupled with the silence that ensued after the initial apology was issued, is rather telling. The seriousness of the claims against Jackie’s version of events coupled with the gaps in fact checking are certainly reason enough to delve further into the story.

In an effort to acknowledge the importance of getting to the truth of the story, Rolling Stone founder, publisher and editor, Jann Wenner, wrote the following in regards to the independent review, which will be published in the next issue:

“In RS 1223, Sabrina Rubin Erdely wrote about a brutal gang rape of a young woman names Jackie at a party in a University o Virginia frat house [“A Rape on Campus”]. Upon its publication, the article generated worldwide attention and praise for shining a light on the way the University of Virginia and many other colleges and universities across the nation have tried to sweep the issue of sexual assault on campus under the rug. Then, two weeks later, The Washington Post and other news outlets began to question Jackie’s account of the evening and the accuracy of Ederly’s reporting. Immediately, we posted a note on our website, disclosing the concerns. We have asked the Columbia Journalism School to conduct an independent review – headed by Dean Steve Coll and Dean of Academic Affairs Sheila Coronel – of the editorial process that led to the publication of this story. As soon as they are finished, we will publish their report.”

All fraternities and sororities have been suspended until January 9th as a result of the original article and the allegations within it. A national dialogue has also been sparked about the high rates of sexual assaults on campus and the low rates of assaults actually being reported as a result of the publication.

The issue now coming to the forefront of the conversation, is one that begs the question of how much damage is being done to the efforts to combat sexual assault and protect the victims. That question will remain unanswered until the report from Columbia comes back and the damage is assessed.

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