The editor who oversaw Rolling Stone magazine’s erroneous story about a fraternity gang rape at the University of Virginia will leave the magazine, more than eight months after the story was published.
Will Dana, Rolling Stone’s managing editor, will step down next month after nearly two decades at the magazine. His departure comes amid a series of defamation lawsuits against the magazine as a result of its publication in November of “A Rape on Campus,” which described an alleged gang rape that authorities determined never occurred.
The U-Va. story at first received great praise for its searing revelations, but as it quickly unraveled, it garnered widespread condemnation.
Dana had only limited involvement in the development and editing of reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s nearly 10,000-word story. But he apologized for it on Rolling Stone’s Web site after major elements of it could not be corroborated.
“A Rape on Campus” attracted worldwide attention with its shocking description of the repeated sexual assault of a U-Va. undergraduate identified in the story only as Jackie. The story said she was invited to a party at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house on campus in 2012 and then lured to an upstairs room, where seven fraternity brothers took turns raping her. It said school officials and Jackie’s friends were indifferent to Jackie’s plight when she reported the crime to them, using her narrative to enforce the theme that U-Va. fosters a culture of rape.
Follow-up reporting by The Washington Post and other news outlets subsequently found that virtually every major detail in the story was inaccurate. A subsequent investigation by officials at Columbia University’s journalism school found numerous flaws in the reporting, editing and fact-checking of the article. Police in Charlottesville also said they found no evidence of a crime.
Upon publication of the Columbia investigation, Dana wrote: “This report was painful reading, to me personally and to all of us at Rolling Stone. ... With its publication, we are officially retracting ‘A Rape on Campus.’... We would like 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.”
The Columbia report was commissioned by Rolling Stone’s co-founder and editor, Jann Wenner. He declined to discipline any members of his staff in the wake of its release in April.
On Wednesday, three members of the Phi Psi fraternity who graduated in 2013 filed suit against Rolling Stone in New York, alleging that the story — which did not name them directly -- libeled them by effectively accusing them of gang rape. Nicole Eramo, an assistant dean at the college whom the magazine said took little action after Jackie confided in her, also has sued Rolling Stone.
The New York Times, which first reported Dana’s departure on Wednesday, said the magazine did not cite a reason for Dana’s departure and has not named his successor.