A fraternity at the University of Virginia announced yesterday it will "pursue all available legal action" against Rolling Stone, saying a Columbia Journalism School review shows the magazine acted recklessly and defamed its members by publishing an article that falsely accused them of gang rape.
"The Rolling Stone article viewed by millions fueled a court of public opinion that ostracized Phi Kappa Psi members and led to vandalism of the fraternity house," the fraternity's statement said.
"Clearly our fraternity and its members have been defamed, but more importantly we fear this entire episode may prompt some victims to remain in the shadows, fearful to confront their attackers," said Stephen Scipione, president of the University of Virginia's Phi Kappa Psi chapter.
Rolling Stone's "shock narrative" about sex assaults at the university was rife with bad journalism, and the magazine has nobody but its own staff to blame, Columbia Journalism School dean Steve Coll said yesterday at a question-and-answer session about the review he led at the magazine's request.
The Manhattan-based magazine pledged to review its practices and removed "A Rape on Campus" from its website, but publisher Jann S. Wenner said he won't fire anyone despite the blistering review. In a New York Times interview, Wenner described "Jackie," whose claims provided the article's narrative thread, as an "expert fabulist storyteller" who manipulated the magazine's journalism process.
"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. . . . This is a clear and sad indication that the magazine is not serious about its journalistic obligations," the fraternity said.
Coll strongly disagreed "with any suggestion that this was Jackie's fault." "The editors made judgments about attribution, fact-checking and verification that greatly increased their risks of error but had little or nothing to do with protecting Jackie's position," the report found.
The Columbia review was requested by Rolling Stone managing editor Will Dana, who apologized again yesterday as he retracted the article. Author Sabrina Rubin Erdely also apologized.
But Sheila Coronel, the journalism school's dean of academic affairs, said, "Nothing ever disappears on the Internet."