During the press conference, Columbia Journalism School Dean Steve Coll said Rolling Stone magazine's expose of what it called a culture of sex assaults at the University of Virginia was rife with bad journalistic practice. The article said a woman named "Jackie" was gang raped at a fraternity house. Police say there is no evidence the attack took place, and other news reports have picked apart the story.
Coll also said that the woman at the center of the story is not to blame for the magazine's failures. He said the problem of sex assaults on campus is important to the public and that journalists should strive to hold institutions accountable.
Rolling Stone has said no one will lose their job over the report but that it will review its editorial practices.
"This report was painful reading, to me personally and to all of us at Rolling Stone," wrote Managing Editor Will Dana in an introduction to the report. "It is also, in its own way, a fascinating document — a piece of journalism, as Coll describes it, about a failure of journalism. With its publication, we are officially retracting 'A Rape on Campus.' "
Dana went on to "apologize to our readers and to all of those who were damaged by our story and the ensuing fallout, including members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity and UVA administrators and students. Sexual assault is a serious problem on college campuses, and it is important that rape victims feel comfortable stepping forward. It saddens us to think that their willingness to do so might be diminished by our failings."
The fraternity house at the center of the now-discredited story, Phi Kappa Psi, said in a statement Monday that it is pursuing legal action against Rolling Stone. The fraternity says the article was viewed by millions, and led to members being ostracized and vandalism of the fraternity house.
The Columbia report found three major flaws in the magazine's reporting methodology. First, reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely did not try to contact three friends whom "Jackie" said she told about the attack, were generally unsupportive, and had encouraged her to keep quiet to protect their social standing. Second, the report said Erdely failed to give enough details of the alleged assault when she contacted the fraternity for comment, which made it difficult for the organization to investigate. And, third, Rolling Stone did not try hard enough to find the person Jackie accused of orchestrating the assault.
If the fraternity had had more information, it might have been able to explain earlier that it did not hold a social function the night of the attack and that none of its members worked at the aquatic center, the report noted.
Dana and Erdely said they had been too accommodating of requests from Jackie that limited their ability to report the story because she said she was a rape victim and asked them not to contact others to corroborate, the report said.
However, Columbia's report said that Rolling Stone also failed to investigate reporting leads even when Jackie had not specifically asked them not to.
"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," it said.
Alan Suderman of Associated Press contributed to this report.