In November 2014, Rolling Stone magazine published “A Rape on Campus,” an article describing the gang rape of a University of Virginia freshman by members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. The story, which was highly critical of UVAs handling of the situation, immediately went viral. Soon after the article’s release, several news organizations, including the Washington Post, questioned the authenticity of the story. Six months after the debacle, Rolling Stone’s public relations nightmare has yet to end.


Sabrina Ederly Picture

Sabrina Rubin Erdely, author of “A Rape on Campus”

In an open letter to readers, Will Dana, managing editor of Rolling Stone magazine, quickly commissioned Columbia School of Journalism dean and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Steve Coll to “investigate any lapses in reporting, editing and fact-checking behind the story.” The findings of the investigation point to inconsistencies and poor reporting on the part of the article’s author, Sabrina Rubin Erdely. Rolling Stone retracted the story and the magazine has issued an apology to its readers, members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, UVA, and all those indirectly affected by the story.


News that Erdely will continue to work at Rolling Stone continues to baffle. In what capacity will Erdely continue to work at Rolling Stone? Will she continue to write or will she be relegated to a lesser role at the publication? Other journalists, including Brian Williams, have had to pay for embellishing stories. Why should Erdely be treated differently? It should be noted that Erdely isn’t accused of embellishing the story but of failing in her duties as a journalist, particularly with regard to fact-checking. Perhaps Rolling Stone feels that retracting the story and suffering national embarrassment is punishment enough.


How does the magazine expect to regain its credibility if those involved are not punished? The decision to keep Erdely on staff isn’t going to do anything for Rolling Stone’s already fragile reputation. One would assume that a company, especially one that is in the business of publishing news, would be in a hurry to put this behind them and look to the future. Keeping Erdely on as a writer is only prolonging the story and providing more content for the next news cycle.


Rolling Stone’s reputation has taken many blows in the past year. To restore its credibility, the magazine must act in good faith or else lose even more readers.


What are your thoughts on Rolling Stone’s decision to keep Sabrina Rubin Erdely and all those involved in the UVA rape story?  How can Rolling Stone earn back its credibility? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section or tweet me @mo_yeen .