The author of a Rolling Stone article about a rape that allegedly occurred in a University of Virginia frat house has apologised for mistakes in her reporting after the Columbia Journalism Review published an investigation into the story.
The Columbia Journalism Review’s investigation into the failings of reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely and her editors was published on Sunday. Rolling Stone has since retracted the story, titled “A Rape on Campus,” that was published last year.
Erdely said in her statement that reading the review of her story was a “brutal and humbling” experience and offered her “deepest apologies” to UVA, her editors, victims of sexual assault, and Rolling Stone readers.
Columbia’s review found that Erdely did not do enough to verify the story of a student, referred to only as “Jackie” in the article, who claimed that she had been gang raped at a Phi Kappa Psi event during her freshman year on campus.
Other media outlets called the story into question soon after it was published, and key players in the story — including some of Jackie’s friends, whom Erdely did not interview — came forward to say that the version of events presented in Rolling Stone didn’t match up with what they knew to be true.
A police investigation subsequently found that there was “no evidence” to support Jackie’s gang rape allegation.
Here’s Erdely’s full statement on the story:
The past few months, since my Rolling Stone article ‘A Rape on Campus’ was first called into question, have been among the most painful of my life. Reading the Columbia account of the mistakes and misjudgments in my reporting was a brutal and humbling experience. I want to offer my deepest apologies: to Rolling Stone’s readers, to my Rolling Stone editors and colleagues, to the U.V.A. community, and to any victims of sexual assault who may feel fearful as a result of my article.
Over my 20 years of working as an investigative journalist — including at Rolling Stone, a magazine I grew up loving and am honored to work for — I have often dealt with sensitive topics and sources. In writing each of these stories I must weigh my compassion against my journalistic duty to find the truth. However, in the case of Jackie and her account of her traumatic rape, I did not go far enough to verify her story. I allowed my concern for Jackie’s well-being, my fear of re-traumatising 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.
Reporting on rape has unique challenges, but the journalist still has the responsibility to get it right. I hope that my mistakes in reporting this story do not silence the voices of victims that need to be heard.
Despite the brutal review of its methods and reporting, Rolling Stone reportedly won’t discipline anyone who was responsible for the story.
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