Rolling Stone journalist Sabrina Rubin Erdely, whose 9,000-word article "A Rape On Campus" told the story of an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia involving the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, apologized Sunday after the Columbia Journalism Review released its analysis of the magazine's missteps in the now-discredited report.
"Reporting on rape has unique challenges, but the journalist still has the responsibility to get it right," Erdely said Sunday night. "I hope that my mistakes in reporting this story do not silence the voices of victims that need to be heard." She added that reading the Columbia Journalism Review of her report "was a brutal and humbling experience."
Here's the full statement from Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the author of the Rolling Stone story, on the Columbia report: pic.twitter.com/EvsZcJeYnY
â€” Ravi Somaiya (@ravisomaiya) April 5, 2015
CJR's analysis of Erdely's piece, published Sunday, slammed both her reporting and her editors for overlooking its lapses. The fallout of the piece went beyond merely bad reporting, according to CJR, but also had real-world repercussions and "may have spread the idea that many women invent rape allegations."
Among CJR's critiques of Erdely's reporting: She based her entire piece on a single source, a woman she called "Jackie"; she did not track down and speak to any of the alleged assailants to corroborate Jackie's account; and Erdely did not speak directly to Jackie's three friends who were with her the night of the alleged assault, instead relying on her account of their responses. Pseudonyms should be used sparingly if at all, according to the report, and "derogatory" claims needed to be more scrupulously fact-checked.
Jackie's friends later said they would have spoken to Erdely and Rolling Stone had she attempted to contact them. And in a damning admission to Slate, Erdely said she did not interview the fraternity members Jackie was accusing of gang-raping her because they were "kind of hard to get in touch with."
In an earlier Washington Post report on "A Rape On Campus," Erdely didn't name Jackie's seven alleged attackers, suggesting that it was because Jackie was afraid of them.
Although Rolling Stone invited the Columbia Journalism Review to do a forensic analysis of the report's missteps, the magazine attributed some of the report's lapses to an attempt not to "re-traumatize" their subject, Jackie. "[T]he editors and Erdely have concluded that their main fault was to be too accommodating of Jackie because she described herself as the survivor of a terrible sexual assault," wrote Rolling Stone.
"Ultimately, we were too deferential to our rape victim; we honored too many of her requests in our reporting," Rolling Stone editor Sean Woods said, according to RS. "We should have been much tougher, and in not doing that, we maybe did her a disservice."
Erdely, Dana, and Woods will continue working for Rolling Stone, a representative for magazine founder and publisher Jann Wenner told CNN.
"[W]e would like to apologize to our readers and to all of those who were damaged by our story and the ensuing fallout, including members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity and UVA administrators and students," Dana said Sunday.
Charlottesville police have found no evidence that a rape occurred in the Jackie case, but they are keeping the case open.