"Rolling Stone's repudiation of the main narrative in 'A Rape on Campus' is a story of journalistic failure that was avoidable," the Columbia Journalism Review said in its lengthy critique of the article, conducted at the request of the magazine. "The failure encompassed reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking."
Led by the dean of the Columbia Journalism School, the review examined the editorial process behind the explosive story, which failed to hold up under a barrage of questions raised by other media after its publication in November.
The article, written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, gave a detailed account of a 2012 gang rape that a woman identified as "Jackie" said had endured at a fraternity house as a first-year student, and accused the university of tolerating a culture that ignored sexual violence against women.
In December, Rolling Stone apologized for "discrepancies" in the account and admitted that it never sought comment from seven men accused of the alleged rape.
The Columbia Journalism Review has previously cited the article at the top of its list of "The Worst Journalism of 2014," faulting Erdely for failing to check Jackie's account against other sources, including her alleged attackers and three friends who were depicted as unsympathetic to her.
The debacle was expected to badly mar the credibility of the magazine, founded in 1967 and best known for its pop music coverage. The publication also was a pioneer in the "New Journalism" of the 1960s and '70s, an approach characterized by a reporter's immersion in the subject matter.
Others have expressed concern that the sense of deception surrounding the story might create a cry-wolf backlash that would diminish the chances of future sexual assault complaints being taken seriously.