Rolling Stone asks Columbia to probe flawed rape story

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WASHINGTON: US magazine Rolling Stone said Monday it has asked the highly regarded Columbia Journalism School to look into its discredited story about a gang rape at a major American university.

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In a statement to appear in the magazine’s next issue, co-founder and publisher Jann Wenner said Columbia would be investigating “the editorial process that led to the publication” of the 9,000-word story on sexual assault at the University of Virginia.

“As soon as they are finished, we will publish their report,” he said, referring to Columbia’s dean of journalism Steve Coll and its head of academic affairs, Sheila Coronel.

Rolling Stone all but retracted its story on December 5, saying it was wrong to have trusted the alleged gang rape victim’s version of what happened.

Published on November 19, the story prompted student protests and the suspension of fraternities at the University of Virginia, while rekindling a national debate about sexual violence on American college campuses.

At the request of her subject, a first-year student identified only as “Jackie,” journalist Sabrina Rubin Erdely never contacted the men who allegedly took part in the gang rape during a frat house party.

“In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced,” Rolling Stone said on December 5.

This partial retraction only stirred more controversy, with many critics seeing it as an attempt by Rolling Stone to blame its editorial lapses on “Jackie.”

The full story remains on Rolling Stone’s website, preceded by the statement from managing editor Will Dana, who has resisted calls to resign.

The University of Virginia is among nearly 90 US colleges now under federal investigation for allegedly mishandling sexual violence complaints.

The Columbia Journalism School is part of Columbia University in New York, and enjoys high prestige as part of the Ivy League of American institutions of higher learning.

It publishes the Columbia Journalism Review, a media magazine that — coincidentally — named the Rolling Stone rape story Monday as a leading example of the worst journalism of 2014.

“It deserves a dart for blaming its utter failure on someone else and many more for all the lapses leading up to it,” it said.

AFP

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