Columbia Dean Affirms: ‘Jackie’ Not To Blame For Rolling Stone Story

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April 6, 2015 2:56 p.m.
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Columbia Graduate School of Journalism Dean Steve Coll made it clear on Monday that “Jackie,” the alleged victim on whom Rolling Stone relied for its story on a rape at a University of Virginia fraternity, was not to blame for the magazine’s reporting failures.

“We do disagree with any suggestion that this was Jackie’s fault,” Coll said at a Monday press conference on the school’s review of Rolling Stone’s reporting, according to Politico. “As a matter of journalism this was a failure of methodology.”

Coll, along with two other members of Columbia’s faculty, on Sunday evening released a review of Rolling Stone’s reporting process for its story on a gang rape at the University of Virginia.

Coll’s comment on Monday followed Rolling Stone Publisher Jann Wenner’s interview with the New York Times, in which he said that while he doesn’t want to blame “Jackie,” “there is something here that is untruthful, and something sits at her doorstep.”

Sean Woods, the editor of the story, also blamed Rolling Stone’s shortcomings on attempts to cater to “Jackie.”

“Ultimately, we were too deferential to our rape victim,” Woods told the Times. “We honored too many of her requests in our reporting. We should have been much tougher, and in not doing that, we maybe did her a disservice.”

The Columbia report found that the Rolling Stone article was a “story of journalistic failure that was avoidable,” and blamed reporter Sarah Rubin Erdely, the magazine’s editors, and the fact-checking department for the story’s gaps.

After Rolling Stone published its story, “A Rape On Campus,” critics quickly began to poke holes in the article and Erdely’s reporting process. Rolling Stone published an editor’s note to say that they lost faith in the narrative presented by “Jackie,” and later asked Columbia to perform an external review of their process.

The Charlottesville, Va., police department also recently suspended its investigation into the alleged sexual assault after finding no evidence that the rape described by “Jackie” occurred.

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