Review of Rolling Stone UVA gang rape story due out today

A review by the Columbia University school of journalism of a Rolling Stone story that depicted a gang rape at a University of Virginia frat house that was later debunked is due out tonight with a press conference on the story tomorrow.


Rolling Stone commissioned the review after backtracking on the story, "A Rape on Campus," which caused an uproar over the issue of campus sexual assault when it was published in November. But discrepancies in the story soon surfaced, and the magazine was forced to retract it.

The story's autopsy could lead to a shakeup at Rolling Stone, founded in 1967 by editor Jann Wenner. The magazine, best known for its pop music coverage, was a pioneer in the "New Journalism" of the 1960s and '70s, an approach characterized by a reporter's immersion in the subject matter.

If the report is highly critical, it "will have an enormous impact on Rolling Stone. It's going to affect the credibility of Rolling Stone going forward, period," said Stuart Benjamin, a Duke University Law School professor.

Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism will release its report at 8 p.m. (0000 GMT) on Sunday, with a news conference at 12 p.m. (1600 GMT) on Monday. Dean Steve Coll, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, headed the review.

The findings will appear on Rolling Stone's website,, and the website of the Columbia Journalism Review,



The 9,000-word article described a Sept. 28, 2012, gang rape of a University of Virginia first-year student, identified by her real first name, Jackie, allegedly during a pledge party at Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.

The article written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely accused the Charlottesville school, the 21,000-student flagship of the Virginia state university system, of tolerating a culture that ignored sexual violence against women. It raised deep concern and national soul-searching about sexual assault at U.S. campuses in general.

After its publication, the school suspended fraternity and sorority activities and enacted more safety measures, and Governor Terry McAuliffe urged a review of policies at the school.

But Phi Kappa Psi rebutted key parts of the article, and the Washington Post reported that Rolling Stone had not checked out the rape claim with any of the accused. In December, Rolling Stone apologized, citing "discrepancies" in Jackie's account.

A long investigation by the Charlottesville police determined there was no evidence to corraborate the allegations of a gang rape at a fraternity, but have left the case open in case new witnesses step forward.

The "new journalism" has given us many stories that could be questioned. One notable recent example is the debunking of the Matthew Shepard hate crime story, where gay activists are still insisting Shepard was killed because he was gay, not because of a drug deal gone bad.

Call me old fashioned, but if "who, what, when, where, why" is "old journalism," at least you know that what you're reading has a basis in fact, not fantasy.