Columbia Journalism Investigates Rolling Stone UVA Article

Journalism2Rolling Stone is taking a new approach to verify its controversial article about rape at the University of Virginia. As the fraternity disputed the article, and some facts were questioned by The Washington Post, Rolling Stone admitted failings and apologized.

Now, Rolling Stone has asked the Columbia School of Journalism to conduct an independent review of the report. Two deans will lead the investigation and have been promised complete access to the magazine's staff and documentation. 

PR News assessed the strategy:

"From a communications standpoint, Rolling Stone's decision is an interesting one. For the University of Virginia, this episode is still very much an open wound, and people in and around Charlottesville want answers to what (if anything) the article had right and what went wrong. An internal review, a common crisis management tactic, would seem less credible to those looking for real answers to what happened with the story. 

"The decision to have Columbia handle the inquiry has people talking about the bungled report once more, and when the report comes out the magazine will face the specter of further criticism. While the independent review will not excuse the debacle entirely, by submitting itself to the scrutiny of a highly regarded journalism school, Rolling Stone is again acknowledging its fallibility and desire to get the story right, even at the expense of more bad press."

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Discussion Starters: 

  • What's your view of Rolling Stone's approach? Do you agree with PR News? 
  • What are the risks of this strategy?