- Associated Press - Monday, April 6, 2015

The Columbia Graduate School of Journalism identified several key players involved in Rolling Stone magazine’s discredited article, “A Rape on Campus,” about an alleged gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity.

Its report presented a broad indictment of the magazine’s handling of a story that had horrified readers, unleashed protests at the university’s Charlottesville campus and sparked a national discussion about sexual assaults on college campuses.

Here’s what it said about each:

THE AUTHOR: Sabrina Rubin Erdely

Erdely spent months working on the story and interviewed the alleged victim of a gang rape, “Jackie,” eight times. But it says she repeatedly failed to verify information Jackie had given her. That included failing to corroborate the statements Jackie’s friends made the night of the assault as described by Jackie; verifying the identity of her date the night of the alleged assault or that he was a member of the fraternity named in the story; or whether he had worked at the university pool, as the article described. The report also faults the author for not providing enough information to the fraternity to properly respond to the allegations.

Erdely apologized in a statement and said she would not repeat the mistakes she made in writing the article. Rolling Stone’s publisher, Jann S. Wenner, told the New York Times Erdely would continue to write for the magazine.

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THE EDITOR: Sean Woods

Woods agreed to continue with the story after Erdely couldn’t find out the identities of Jackie’s three friends, although he said he repeatedly asked her to do so. He allowed a quote from one of Jackie’s friends to appear in the story without making it clear it came from Jackie instead of the friend, misleading readers about its origins and compounding the false impression that Rolling Stone knew who “Randall” was and had sought his and the other friends’ side of the story. Along with the magazine’s managing editor, Woods authorized Erdely to tell Jackie they would stop trying to find the lifeguard and identify him with a pseudonym. The report says Woods did not do enough to insist on more phone calls, more travel and more time to close the gaps in Erdley’s reporting.

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THE MANAGING EDITOR: Will Dana

Dana could have looked deeper into the story drafts he read, spotted the reporting gaps and insisted that they be fixed, but failed to do so. Dana did not recall having any conversations with Woods or Erdely about Jackie’s three friends. Dana was also not aware the magazine did not know the true identity of the person described as Jackie’s date the night of the assault, a lifeguard called “Drew” in the story.

Dana and Erdely said they had been too accommodating of requests from Jackie that limited their ability to report the story because she said she was a rape victim and asked them not to contact others to corroborate.

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THE FACT-CHECKER

The report does not identify the fact-checker on the story because she did not have decision-making authority. She worked as a freelance fact-checker for three years and had been on staff for about a year and a half. She relied heavily on Jackie’s account, spending four hours on the phone with her, reviewing every detail of her experience. The report faults the fact-checker for not providing the university with the details of Jackie’s account to Erdely of her assault at Phi Kappa Psi. It notes she tried to improve the story’s reporting and attribution of quotations concerning the three friends.

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THE PUBLISHER: Jann S. Wenner

Wenner reads about half the stories in each issue before publication and had read a draft of Erdely’s story, but he left editorial supervision to Dana. Wenner told the Times that Jackie was “a really expert fabulist storyteller.” He added he was not trying to blame her “but obviously there is something here that is untruthful, and something sits at her doorstep.”

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