US & Canada

Rolling Stone retracts Virginia campus rape article

File photo: Protesters gather outside the fraternity house where an alleged gang rape took place Image copyright AP
Image caption Protesters targeted the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity following the article's publication

Rolling Stone has apologised and officially retracted an article about rape on the campus of a US university following an independent review.

Managing Editor Will Dana apologised to readers and "all of those who were damaged by our story and the ensuing fallout".

The November 2014 article described a gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity house in 2012.

A four-month police investigation found no evidence that the incident occurred.

However, police chief Timothy Longo said that did not mean "something terrible didn't happen" to the student known as Jackie.

When the story was published, it prompted student protests and a renewed national debate about sexual violence at US college.

The Columbia School of Journalism report, commissioned by Rolling Stone, described the article as "a story of journalistic failure".

Written by journalist Sabrina Erdely, the 9,000-word article A Rape on Campus relied on Jackie as the sole source to tell the story of an alleged rape at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house.

Subsequent investigations by other reporters and Ms Erdely herself identified errors in the reporting of the piece.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Police Chief Longo said the case would be suspended not closed

The Columbia School of Journalism report said the magazine failed to use "basic, even routine journalistic practice" to verify the details after Ms Erdely failed to contact the alleged attackers.

"The failure encompassed reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking", and there were "systematic failures" at the magazine, the report said.

The report went on to suggest that the article had undermined work to stop sexual violence as it "spread the idea that many women invent rape allegations".

Mr Dana described the report as "painful reading", and said the magazine was committing itself to a series of recommendations in the report.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity received an apology

He apologised to all those affected by the story, "including members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity and UVA administrators and students".

"Sexual assault is a serious problem on college campuses, and it is important that rape victims feel comfortable stepping forward," he added.

"It saddens us to think that their willingness to do so might be diminished by our failings."

Ms Erdely also apologised in a statement released alongside the report.

Columbia said that Jackie had declined to answer questions for the report and that her lawyer said it "is in her best interest to remain silent at this time."

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