Will Dana, the managing editor at Rolling Stone who oversaw the magazine’s catastrophically false story of a gang rape at the University of Virginia (UVA), is leaving the magazine, it was announced late Wednesday.
Dana’s departure comes just as the magazine is being hit by a wave of lawsuits stemming from the story. In addition to a $7.5 million suit filed by UVA dean Nicole Eramo in May, three members of a UVA fraternity slapped the magazine with a lawsuit Wednesday. (RELATED: Three Members Of Falsely Accused Fraternity Sue Rolling Stone After Fabricated Article)
Dana had worked at Rolling Stone since 1996 and had been managing editor since 2005. According to The New York Times, he is not leaving for another job.
The Times also asked Rolling Stone whether Dana’s departure was related to the discredited UVA story, and received a vague reply that “many factors go into a decision like this.”
Dana received withering criticism in the wake of the UVA story, “A Rape on Campus,” which was written by Sabrina Erdely. The piece alleged that a UVA undergraduate, identified only as “Jackie,” was gang-raped by a group of fraternity members as part of an initiation ritual, and then struggled to obtain justice from callous campus administrators.
The story led to a wave of outrage against UVA, but then quickly began to fall apart. The fraternity accused of planning the gang-rape wasn’t holding a party the night Jackie was supposedly raped at one. Later research by The Washington Post discovered that Jackie was a highly unreliable source who apparently concocted a fake boyfriend and fake rape allegation in order to win the affection of a male student she had a crush on. A few months later, local police declared that there was no evidence Jackie had ever been raped.
A subsequent investigation into Rolling Stone’s reporting by the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR), conducted at the magazine’s request, was utterly devastating, identifying repeated failures of editorial oversight that led to the flawed story’s publication. The report faulted Dana, who had oversight of the piece, for failing to locate major gaps in Erdely’s reporting. For example, even though Erdely’s story accused three of Jackie’s friends of not reporting her rape because they feared it would hurt their social lives, Dana apparently never asked about these students to ensure they had been contacted to get their side of the story. After the story’s release, all strongly disputed Erdely’s version of events.
Similarly, as he oversaw the story, Dana was apparently never aware that Rolling Stone had never contacted Jackie’s supposed boyfriend, “Drew,” and had in fact never confirmed his existence.
“I had a faith that as it went through the fact-checking that all this was going to be straightened out,” Dana is quoted as saying in the CJR report.
If Dana’s role in the bungled story is the key reason for his departure, then he’s the first person at Rolling Stone to lose their job in the fiasco. Erdely herself is a freelance writer
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