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Assessing fallout of Rolling Stone UVA story retraction




Students walk past the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house on the University of Virginia campus on December 6, 2014 in Charlottesville, Virginia. On Friday, Rolling Stone magazine issued an apology for discrepencies that were published in an article regarding the alleged gang rape of a University of Virginia student by members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.
Students walk past the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house on the University of Virginia campus on December 6, 2014 in Charlottesville, Virginia. On Friday, Rolling Stone magazine issued an apology for discrepencies that were published in an article regarding the alleged gang rape of a University of Virginia student by members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.
Jay Paul/Getty Images

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It was the investigative story  that rocked the nation, but not in the way Rolling Stone had intended.

Over the weekend, the magazine formally retracted the 9,000-word piece by writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely detailing an alleged gang rape at a University of Virginia frat house, after commissioning the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism to review the piece. 

The report found basic journalistic errors throughout the process. “The failure encompassed reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking,” wrote the Columbia authors. “The magazine set aside or rationalized as unnecessary essential practices of reporting that, if pursued, would likely have led the magazine’s editors to reconsider publishing Jackie’s narrative so prominently, if at all.”

The magazine and Edely both apologized after the release of the report. None of the editors that worked on the story will be fired because of the story. Rolling Stone says it plans to continue working with Erdely.

CNN is reporting that Phi Kappa Psi, the fraternity at the center of the Rolling Stone piece, is contemplating a possible lawsuit against the magazine.

What’s the long-term impact of the retracted story? How would the lawsuit play out if Phi Kappa Psi decides to pursue legal action?  How does this unfortunate example feed into the national conversation about the pervasiveness of sexual assault on college campuses?

 

Guest:

Jane Kirtley, professor media ethics and law at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota