The Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi, portrayed in a now-discredited Rolling Stone story as the site of a brutal gang rape, said Monday it “plans to pursue all available legal action against the magazine,” on the heels of a Columbia Journalism School report on the magazine’s missteps.
“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 fraternity said in a statement Monday, apparently referring to an interview by publisher Jann Wenner published in The New York Times Sunday evening where he said no one would be fired and the author of the story, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, would keep writing for the magazine.
The magazine’s editors are also quoted in the Columbia report saying that they don’t think the problem lay in their processes, although a statement posted on their website after the report’s release says they “are also committing ourselves to a series of recommendations about journalistic practices that are spelled out in the report.”
The fraternity statement also said, “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 leaving the door open for equally irresponsible reporting in the future.”
Rolling Stone asked the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism to conduct an independent investigation of the magazine’s failures with the story. But though the main authors, deans Steve Coll and Sheila Coronel, spent hours with Erdely and the editors and had access to hundreds of pages of notes, they did not have full cooperation. “Erdely and the editors involved declined to answer questions about the specifics of the legal review, citing instructions from the magazine’s outside counsel,” they wrote.
At a press conference at Columbia University on Monday afternoon, Coll and Coronel repeatedly declined to say whether they thought anyone involved in the story should be fired. They also revealed that they attempted to learn what did happen to Jackie. But they were unable to learn more than the Charlottesville Police Department, which said in late March it could not find any evidence to substantiate the claims about Jackie in the story but did not exclude that something traumatic may have happened to her.
Asked to respond to the magazine’s owner, Jann Wenner, apparently shifting the blame to Jackie, calling her a “really expert fabulist storyteller” in an interview with the Times, Coll said, “We do disagree with any suggestion that this was Jackie’s fault. As a matter of journalism this was a failure of methodology and journalism.”