Rolling Stone magazine has apologized and officially retracted its discredited article about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia.
The magazine took the action Sunday night after receiving a report from the Columbia University graduate school of journalism on the editorial process that led to the article.
Rolling Stone asked for the independent review after other news media organizations exposed flaws in the November 2012 article, titled "A Rape on Campus."
By Dec. 5, Rolling Stone apologized and acknowledged discrepancies in the article. A four-month police investigation produced no evidence that the attack occurred.
The article focused on a student identified only as "Jackie," who said she was raped by seven men at a fraternity house. Jackie refused to co-operate in the police investigation.
The story's autopsy could lead to a shakeup at Rolling Stone, founded in 1967 by editor Jann Wenner. The magazine, best known for its pop music coverage, was a pioneer in the "New Journalism" of the 1960s and '70s, an approach characterized by a reporter's immersion in the subject matter.
The 9,000-word article described a Sept. 28, 2012, gang rape of a University of Virginia first-year student, identified by her real first name, Jackie, allegedly during a pledge party at Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.
The article written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely accused the Charlottesville school, the 21,000-student flagship of the Virginia state university system, of tolerating a culture that ignored sexual violence against women. It raised deep concern and national soul-searching about sexual assault at U.S. campuses in general.
The retraction of this article is good news as it puts to rest the accusation of 'out-of-control' fraternities in the University of Virginia. It does not necessarily mean that there is no 'culture-of-rape' on campus, but that if there is, it is not nearly as pronounced as you would think after reading the Rolling Stone excuse for professional journalism.
After its publication, the school suspended fraternity and sorority activities and enacted more safety measures, and Governor Terry McAuliffe urged a review of policies at the school.
But Phi Kappa Psi rebutted key parts of the article, and the Washington Post reported that Rolling Stone had not checked out the rape claim with any of the accused. In December, Rolling Stone apologized, citing "discrepancies" in Jackie's account.
The 9,000-word article described the alleged gang rape of a University of Virginia first-year student, identified by her real first name, Jackie, during a pledge party at Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.
Charlottesville police said last month they had found no evidence to back up the story, citing numerous inconsistencies. Jackie declined to give police a statement or answer their questions.
Benjamin, the Duke law professor, said it was doubtful Rolling Stone would face any lawsuit for libel since no one had been identified by name as an attacker.
Fraternities and sororities, social clubs at many U.S. colleges, often have their own housing and are known as the Greek system.
As a public entity, the university is barred from suing. Both the campus chapter and national organization of Phi Kappa Psi also could be too large as groups to claim libel damages, he said.
A suit by Phi Kappa Psi could lead to a potentially damaging "fishing expedition" by lawyers into the fraternity. Rolling Stone's reputation also is likely to be damaged anyway if the Columbia review is damning, he said.
But Bruce Sanford, a Washington media lawyer with the firm of BakerHostetler, said hefty settlements arising from false accusations of rape against Duke lacrosse players in 2006 showed that the fraternity could potentially file a lawsuit.
"The parallels are clear enough that they should worry Rolling Stone considerably, if they're not worried already," he said.