Rolling Stone apologies and retracts college 'gang rape expose'
WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
AFP PhotoRolling Stone magazine withdrew and apologised for a discredited story about a gang rape on a US college campus April 5, publishing a review of the debacle that found "avoidable" failures in basic journalism practices.
An 8,000-word report into the article by the Columbia Journalism Review found lapses in journalism standards at the pop-culture magazine from start to finish of the purported expose on rape which prompted a police investigation and sparked public outcry when first published in November.
Investigators probing the allegations said last month they found no evidence to support the explosive claims of a violent gang rape at a college fraternity in Virginia.
Questions were raised almost immediately after the article was published and Rolling Stone had all but retracted its story after apologising in December.
The magazine that has a reputation for its investigative work said it was wrong to have trusted the alleged victim's version of what happened in September 2012 at a University of Virginia frat house.
Despite the shrinking editorial staff at Rolling Stone, the review found the failures for the article were ones of judgment and not due to a shortage of resources.
The article's reporting is "a story of journalistic failure that was avoidable. The failure encompassed reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking," the review said.
Journalists at Rolling Stone failed to identify problems and discuss them at the magazine, according to the review.
The controversial article attempted to show a dramatic example of sexual assault on a college campus and the struggles victims face afterwards, a problem at universities across the United States.
But reporters and editors were so focused on publishing the harrowing example that "basic, even routine" reporting standards were not followed, according to the report.
They also failed to fully check claims made by the alleged victim, who was not identified in the story, it added.
With the publication of the harsh review of the handling of the article on its website, Rolling Stone said it has officially retracted the controversial story.
"This report was painful reading, to me personally and to all of us at Rolling Stone," a note from Rolling Stone Managing Editor Will Dana said at the top of the review.
Despite the sharp criticism of those involved in the story, Dana told the New York Times that no one would be fired.
"Dana said that the report was punishment enough for those involved," the paper wrote.
The report "was not the result of patterns in the work of these people," he told the paper.
Published on November 19, the story prompted student protests and the suspension of fraternities at the college and sparked a national debate about sexual violence on US campuses.
Police in Charlottesville, Virginia said last month that the purported victim, whom Rolling Stone called "Jackie", had met several times with investigators, but did not discuss the alleged gang rape.
The city's police chief stated that the case would be suspended, not closed, leaving the door open to further investigation if other evidence emerged.
Dozens of US colleges are under federal investigation over their handling of sexual violence complaints, and the problem of sexual assault at college is one President Barack Obama has highlighted.