Gonzaga community responds to Columbia review of retracted Rolli - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Gonzaga community responds to Columbia review of retracted Rolling Stone story

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Phi Kappa Psi, the fraternity at the center of the original article, says it will take all available legal action against the magazine. Phi Kappa Psi, the fraternity at the center of the original article, says it will take all available legal action against the magazine.

At the beginning of this week, the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia published what's being called a scathing review of the "Rape on Campus" story published by Rolling Stone back in November. The original story was about a gang rape at a fraternity house at the University of Virginia but the review discredited the story, and found that the author and editors relied solely on only one source - the victim, a student identified only as "Jackie." 

The review pointed out that the author and editor failed to exercise some of the most basic journalistic principles, fact-checking being one of them. And now, Phi Kappa Psi, the fraternity at the center of the original article, says it will take all available legal action against the magazine.

The original story sent shockwaves through the UVa. community, and through college campuses across the country. Now, even though this story has been retracted, the issue remains: sexual assault is a problem on college campuses from Charlottesville, Virginia all the way to Spokane, Washington.

Shortly after the Columbia review came out, the New York Times published an article that quoted a young woman who attended UVa., is a survivor of sexual assault, and now works at the university. She said another reason why this article was so flawed was because the author chose to focus on this most extreme story of campus rape, as if to say the more nuanced accounts of campus rape were not "real" enough to represent rape culture. This belief, she said, is part of the problem.

Meg Besch, a GU senior who is actively working with her school administrators to craft better campus policies about sexual assault and the meaning of "consent" said she desperately wishes this story was not a case of false reporting but she said she also hopes students continue to come forward with their personal stories.

"False reporting is not core of issue," she said. "It's unfortunate how this came out, but it's important to focus on the fact that people get hurt, and we need to do better, by them."

And although the facts were wrong in this case, she pointed out that false allegations of rape are rare.

"The only way rape culture is going to change is if people challenge it," said Besch. " The only way policies will get better is if we challenge them and say this is where the University failed me, or the police failed me, or investigative journalism let me down."

Gonzaga's broadcast professor Dan Garrity said he hopes his journalism students are able to learn from the egregious mistakes the magazine made.

"The reporter, I imagine, wanted to take a stand on something horrible: sexual assault," he said. "But the danger, when you quit asking questions, when you know in your heart it's bad, you don't scrutinize all aspects of story...and that's your job, as a reporter."

He does want his students to continue to tell stories that have the potential for great change, even if the subject matter is hard.

"I want my students to know that their job is to do this better," said Garrity. "I bet the journalists of the future will come up with a way - they need to come up with a way, to make a difference here."

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