Last month, Rolling Stone published a story entitled A Rape on Campus, which described a brutal gang rape of a woman named Jackie during a party 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. . . . In the face of new information reported by the Washington Post and other news outlets, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account.
When a blockbuster story that took “months” to research and write must be prefaced, postpublication, with a note that suggests the story isn’t true, an editor knows he has a problem. But that’s what Rolling Stone faced when its December 4 cover story, by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, blew up. With a few days of shoe-leather reporting, the Washington Post and other media outlets forced Rolling Stone to retract—without using the word, of course—the 9,000-word article about a vicious gang rape at the University of Virginia, which had ended all Greek activities on campus during the fall semester. The “victim” wasn’t such a reliable source. Of course, Erdely and Rolling Stone would...