If anyone was unsure of the veracity of Rolling Stone's account of an alleged gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity, the final nail is now in the story's coffin. Sunday night, the Columbia School of Journalism released its much anticipated blistering report on the magazine's November feature.
The next afternoon, reporters from major news outlets around the world tore into Rolling Stone as they questioned the report's authors. And right in the middle of the press conference, news broke that the fraternity in question, Phi Kappa Psi, was going forward with "all available legal action" against Rolling Stone.
Still, perhaps the most astounding news of all in the last day is that everyone at Rolling Stone, including freelance author Sabrina Erdely, will continue working for the publication. A close second for this accolade is Rolling Stone's assertion that they don't need to "change their editorial systems." All of this comes on the heels of a Charlottesville police investigation ending two weeks ago that also ripped Rolling Stone's story to shreds.
The Columbia review, which is even a third longer than the original 9,000-word piece and took three and a half months to produce, details Rolling Stone's many missteps at every level.
It is, essentially, a fascinating tutorial in how to fail miserably at the fundamentals of Journalism 101:
The failure encompassed reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking. 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 published story glossed over the gaps in the magazine's reporting by using pseudonyms and by failing to state where important information had come from.
A press conference held by report authors Steven Coll, the school's dean, and Sheila Coronel, the academic dean, revealed little new information outside of the report. But, aside from the fact that no one from Rolling Stone was present, the most telling aspect of the presser was the reporters' sharply worded questions. Some outlets even sent multiple reporters. CNN, which broke the news that no one would be fired, had three reporters ask questions. Two from CBS News took the mic as well.
Right off the bat, CBS reporter Julianna Goldman questioned Columbia's decision to keep Jackie's identity private (“Jackie” was the alleged victim, whose story has since fallen apart and been discredited as an elaborate catfishing scheme).
Lloyd Grove of the Daily Beast wondered if Rolling Stone did in fact "cooperate fully," as Columbia contends, considering the magazine didn't answer questions about legal decisions that they deemed attorney-client privilege.