Skip to main content
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Students participating in rush pass by the Phi Kappa Psi house at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., on Jan. 15, 2015.

STEVE HELBER/The Associated Press

Rolling Stone's "shock narrative" about a culture of sex assaults at the University of Virginia was rife with bad journalistic practice, and "Jackie," the student at the centre of the story, is not to blame for the magazine's failures, Columbia Journalism School dean Steve Coll said Monday.

The magazine pledged to review its practices and removed the discredited article from its website, but publisher Jann S.Wenner said he won't fire anyone despite the leading journalism school's blistering critique of his magazine's reporting and editing failures.

Mr. Wenner said any failures were isolated and described Jackie as "a really expert fabulist storyteller" who managed to manipulate the magazine's journalism process.

Story continues below advertisement

"Obviously there is something here that is untruthful, and something sits at her doorstep," he told The New York Times.

But Mr. Coll said blaming Jackie would lead people to take the wrong lesson from this entire saga.

"We do disagree with any suggestion that this was Jackie's fault," Mr. Coll said at a news conference in New York, calling the article an object lesson in what not to do when reporting, writing and editing about complex issues.

"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," the report found.

University president Teresa Sullivan said the article hurt efforts to fight sexual violence, tarred the school's reputation and falsely accused some students "of heinous, criminal acts and falsely depicted others as indifferent to the suffering of their classmate."

Some students called for Ms. Sullivan to pursue disciplinary action against Jackie. Others worried that other women will suffer because of the magazine's failures.

Jackie's lawyer, Palma Pustilnik, told The Associated Press on Monday that "we are not making any comment at all at this time."

Story continues below advertisement

The university has not said how many rape reports it has received since the article was published last November. But in a response to a public records request from The Associated Press, it said five sex assaults had been reported to its Dean of Students office from the start of school through Nov. 23, 2014. That followed an increase in reports from 16 to 31 to 40 in the previous full academic years.

The Columbia review presented a broad indictment of the magazine's handling of the story, which horrified readers, unleashed protests on the Charlottesville campus and sparked a national discussion about sex assaults. Police suspended their separate investigation two weeks ago for lack of any evidence supporting Jackie's claims.

The review was requested by Rolling Stone managing editor Will Dana, who issued another apology Monday as he retracted the article. Author Sabrina Rubin Erdely also apologized, saying she would not repeat the mistakes she made when writing "A Rape on Campus."

But Sheila Coronel, the journalism school's dean of academic affairs, said "nothing ever disappears on the Internet," and some University of Virginia students said nothing will erase the article's repercussions.

The fraternity where Jackie said she was gang-raped announced Monday it will "pursue all available legal action against the magazine" now that the review "demonstrates the reckless nature in which Rolling Stone researched and failed to verify facts in its article that erroneously accused Phi Kappa Psi of crimes its members did not commit."

The report found three major flaws in the magazine's reporting methodology: Ms. Erdely did not try to contact certain friends of Jackie to corroborate her story, instead taking Jackie's word for it that one of them refused to talk; she failed to give enough details of the alleged assault when she contacted the fraternity for comment, which made it difficult for the organization to investigate; and Rolling Stone did not try hard enough to find the person Jackie accused of orchestrating the assault.

Story continues below advertisement

If the fraternity had had more information, it might have been able to respond in ways that would raise doubts among journalists, the review concluded.

Mr. Dana and Ms. Erdely both said they had been too accommodating of Jackie's requests not to contact others. Mr. Coll took both to task for seeking shelter in being overly sensitive to an alleged rape victim. "The evidence doesn't support" this explanation, he said, since the magazine also failed to investigate leads that Jackie hadn't asked them not to pursue.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies