Rolling Stone at the Newseum

Rolling Stone magazine

A Newseum employee installs the December 2014 edition of Rolling Stone magazine featuring the controversial article titled “A Rape on Campus.” (Newseum)

By Denisha Hedgebeth

Founded in 1967, Rolling Stone magazine was first known for its music coverage and political reporting. Since then, the publication has undergone many changes, shifting focus to a younger readership and on current news events.

While Rolling Stone has generated popular readership over the years, its reputation for accuracy took a critical hit in December 2014 with the publication of a controversial article titled “A Rape on Campus.”

The article sparked national debate about campus rape after it claimed that several members of the University of Virginia’s Phi Kappa Psi fraternity had gang-raped a female student. Shortly after publication, The Washington Post found major discrepancies in the story. A subsequent report by Columbia University detailed a lack of basic journalistic practices in the execution of the article, and Rolling Stone retracted it in April 2015.

The original copy of that Rolling Stone edition is now a part of the Newseum’s extensive collection of historic publications and is highlighted in an exhibit on media mistakes in the News Corporation News History Gallery.

“It is a part of our collection to remind visitors of the power of the press, the responsibilities inherent in that power, and the damage that can occur when journalists don’t do their jobs well,” said Carrie Christoffersen, director of collections. “The Rolling Stone campus rape story is a cautionary tale about what can happen when the press doesn’t live up to its standards of fact-checking, fairness and questioning sources while reporting a story.”

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