Tag Archives: University of Virginia

They Said That? 4/7/15

From Phi Kappa Psi, University of Virgina chapter, responding to a Columbia Journalism School examination of The Rolling Stone’s  journalistic standards and practices in connection with an article that falsely accused the fraternity of playing host to a gang rape of a woman named Jackie:

Rolling Stone Magazine admits its staff engaged in reckless behavior while covering this story, yet the magazine refuses to take any action against those involved in reporting the story or address needed changes to its editorial process. The reporter in question not only failed to apologize to members of Phi Kappa Psi, but doesn’t even acknowledge the three witnesses she quoted in the article but never interviewed. This is a clear and sad indication that the magazine is not serious about its journalistic obligations.


That’s a correct assessment. Columbia condemned many of the magazine’s actions and oversight, but Rolling Stone publisher Jann S. Wenner has said that no one will be fired because of the story. The fraternity is considering legal action. See also “He Said That? 1/14/15” SLL.

He Said That? 1/14/15

From Kevin O’Neill, a lawyer at Squire Patton Boggs representing two fraternities at the University of Virginia that have refused to sign an agreement governing, among other matters, alcohol consumption at fraternity parties:

The fact is the university has never acknowledged that they made a mistake in suspending 25 percent of the student body that had nothing to do with an article that proved to be erroneous. The university has not apologized and has not explained why they took this action.


The article in question is a Rolling Stone article alleging that a woman named “Jackie” was a gang-raped at a fraternity party by seven men. The story was subsequently discredited when it was discovered that it did not comport with verifiable facts. Rolling Stone acknowledged errors in the story, among which were its failure to seek comment from the accused fraternity and its members. Before the story was discredited, the university suspended all fraternities. The university owes an apology to the fraternities for taking action against the entire group based on an unsubstantiated allegation against one of them. The two hold-out fraternities should be commended for refusing a punishment based on transgressions that did not happen.

They Said That? 12/5/14

From Will Dana, managing editor at Rolling Stone magazine, after the magazine found “discrepancies” in a story about “Jackie,” who alleged she was gang-raped at a University of Virginia fraternity party, in a post on the magazine’s website:

Last month, Rolling Stone published a story titled “A Rape on Campus” by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, which described a brutal gang rape of a woman named Jackie at a University of Virginia fraternity house; the university’s failure to respond to this alleged assault – and the school’s troubling history of indifference to many other instances of alleged sexual assaults. The story generated worldwide headlines and much soul-searching at UVA. University president Teresa Sullivan promised a full investigation and also to examine the way the school responds to sexual assault allegations.

Because of the sensitive nature of Jackie’s story, we decided to honor her request not to contact the man she claimed orchestrated the attack on her nor any of the men she claimed participated in the attack for fear of retaliation against her. In the months Erdely spent reporting the story, Jackie neither said nor did anything that made Erdely, or Rolling Stone’s editors and fact-checkers, question Jackie’s credibility. Her friends and rape activists on campus strongly supported Jackie’s account. She had spoken of the assault in campus forums. We reached out to both the local branch and the national leadership of the fraternity where Jackie said she was attacked. They responded that they couldn’t confirm or deny her story but had concerns about the evidence.

In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced. We were trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault and now regret the decision to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account. We are taking this seriously and apologize to anyone who was affected by the story.


The first rule of journalism is do all you can to get both sides of a story. Dana said Rolling Stone was trying to be “…sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault…” by not contacting the accused. What about the members of the fraternity, who were feeling not just shame and humiliation, but outrage and fear that they might have to stand trial and face prison time based on what appears to be an unsupported accusation? Agenda first, facts be damned is not journalism. At best its propaganda, at worst its malicious and libelous. This is a weak apology, perhaps because the magazine could be facing legal action. At the least Dana should have directly mentioned the fraternity and the University of Virginia in his apology. If he had to run the gauntlet that public figures accused of a racist, sexist, or just generally “insensitive” statement usually have to run, he (and the writer) would undergo sensitivity encounters and put in apology appearances at the university and fraternity.

A salute is due Bret Stephens, of The Wall Street Journal. His conclusion in a 12/2/14 story, “UVA, Ferguson, and Media Failure”:

It isn’t surprising that a generation of journalists schooled in the idea that ‘narrative’ contains truth independent of fact are so easily taken in by stories that ultimately prove less than accurate, if not utterly untrue. Nor is it surprising that American distrust in the news media is near an all-time high. Bad journalism is bad for journalism, and good journalists have a responsibility and interest in calling out sensationalist stories whose details ring false even as they play to what we’re inclined to believe is true.

The UVA story cries out for a much closer look.