Daily and NBN cover forum

Here's a link to the Daily Northwestern's coverage of the forum.

Here's North by Northwestern's coverage.


Say Goodbye to the name "Medill School of Journalism"

Tribune columnist Eric Zorn has reportedly obtained possible name changes being tossed around by a Medill committee. Lavine was asked earlier tonight in a Q and A for students about the possibility of changing the name. He said he didn't know what would come of a name change. Check out the seven options Zorn posted on his blog:

The Medill School of Journalism

The Medill School of Journalism and Integrated Marketing Communications

The Medill School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing Communications

The Medill School of News Media and Integrated Marketing Communications

The Medill School of Audience and Consumer Information

The Medill School of Media Arts and Sciences

The Medill School of Information and Influence

Spett Speaks

David Spett, the author of the original column behind this whole incident, has a followup column published on the Daily website.

Here it is for your reading pleasure.

After all the accusations against Spett's reporting, it is worth a read.


NBN confirms no one said the quote

North by Northwestern has published the results of its own investigation of Spett's reporting. The five contributors to the report contacted all 12 Medill students and 10 of the 17 non-Medill students, all of whom denied ever saying the quote in question. Six of the other seven did not reply, and the last one agreed to an interview but never followed up.

You can read the entire report here.

This is yet another investigation of the source of the quote that has taken place outside of the provost's office. This blog has confirmed that the five Medill juniors were not contacted during the provost's investigation.

Also, quick reminder: the dean will be available to answer questions from students tomorrow night at McCormick Tribune Center at 5:30 p.m.

Zorn: Hayden's letter petulant and weak

Eric Zorn covers the latest development, Tom Hayden's letter, in his blog Change of Subject. Read the full article here.

One important point to make: Zorn corrects Hayden's assertion that Hayden was not contacted. Zorn emailed Hayden on February 20, according to his blog, even though there was no reason to assume Hayden would have anything substantive to say on the matter. Hayden, remember, wrote this:
I find it interesting and troubling that only two reporters attempted to contact me throughout this fabricated media drama. I agreed to speak with one of the two. He seems to be a serious and sincere young man who writes for northbynorthwestern.com. Unless I completely misread him, he appears interested in getting to the truth. With all the things I’ve read over the past weeks and months, I sometimes wonder if there are any others out there searching for the truth.
Whether or not Zorn is the other reporter, the one who is not serious or sincere or interested in getting the truth, remains a mystery.


A letter from Professor Tom Hayden

This morning, Tom Hayden sent out a letter to the Medill community about Quotegate. Professor Hayden taught IMC 303, the class that the dean referenced in his letter to alumni.

Some of the main points from his letter:

Professor Hayden is upset that only two reporters have contacted him regarding the story. He did not respond to one reporter but did speak to someone at North by Northwestern, an online news outlet run by students that has also been following the controversy. Read North by Northwestern's coverage here.

He also recalled conversations with four former students about the coverage by columnist David Spett. Three of these four students refused to talk to David. The last one told Professor Hayden he believed the quote, "reflected how everyone in the class felt." All four of these students are anonymous to protect the student-teacher relationship.

Finally, Professor Hayden worries about the anti-Medill sentiment in the faculty, the students and the alumni. Some students, he writes, feel intimated by those around them and are worried about "reprisal from faculty members who had signed the petition that was sent to the press."

Professor Hayden has every right to send this letter and makes some interesting points in it, but there are still some facts about what happened that are absent.

First, the five Medill juniors in question have now said several times that they were not the source of the quote. They told this to David Spett, David Protess of Medill faculty and Eric Zorn from the Chicago Tribune. All five students have confirmed to JournalistsSpeak.blogspot.com that the provost's office never contacted them in its investigation.

Second, the provost's investigation has set a dangerous precedent that similar sentiments expressed by those in the class are enough to conclude a direct quote was not fabricated.

Finally, the dean's silence on the issue, especially to students, has been disheartening, and the lack of transparency in all of this is cause for concern. We hope the upcoming forum (Wednesday night, 5:30 p.m., at McCormick Tribune Center) will shed more light on the issue.
The picture above is courtesy Medill's website.


Chicago Tribune: NU President Should Intervene

A staff editorial published in the Chicago Tribune's Saturday edition says it sees no end in sight for "Quotegate's" impact on Medill and Northwestern's reputations, despite a recent attempt by Provost Linzer to end the controversy.

The editorial calls Linzer's investigation into whether the Dean fabricated quotes as "a carefully lawyered" and "mush-mouth" statement.

Linzer argued there is "ample evidence that the quotes were consistent with the statement students expressed about the course in course evaluation and no evidence to point to any likelihood that the quotes were fabricated."

The Tribune editorial challenges Linzer's line of reasoning as to why fabrication was not possible:

- That passage is evasive. Direct quotation isn't merely "consistent with sentiment." That's called paraphrasing. Direct quotation chronicles what a person said.

- That passage also is inaccurate. There is indeed evidence suggesting that the quotations were fabricated: Spett's research. Spett may have produced evidence that, on closer scrutiny, proves accurate or inaccurate, compelling or unpersuasive. But he certainly produced provocative evidence.

The editorial concludes 'Quotegate' will continue to be "embarrassing" to both Northwestern University and Medill, until President Bienen intervenes.


Chicago Reader: Medill Faculty Doesn't Take a Stand

The Chicago Reader's Michael Miner today reported on a series of resolutions that were voted on by the Medill faculty. Miner called the resolutions an exercise of the faculty spinning its wheels.

Miner also reports on communication between Medill Professor David Protess and NU Provost Daniel Linzer regarding the legitimacy of Linzer's investigation.
See the full story here



What: The Undergraduate Student Advisory Council and JournalistsSpeak.blogspot.com will host a planning session with Dean Lavine to look at issues of transparency and accountability – unnamed sources, trust in media, news and advertising relationship, etc.

There will also be a chance to ask the dean questions.

The point of the meeting will be to figure out what topics beyond these should be part of a quarter-long focus to learn and to improve what Medill can do in class, in our publications and in how each of us practices journalism. Be prepared to add your ideas for what should happen in Spring quarter.

Where: McCormick Tribune Forum Room
When: Wednesday, March 12
Time: 5:30-6:30 p.m.

Come for the Free Pizza. Stay because you care about journalism.

Zorn: Questions Growing, Not Going Away

The Chicago Tribune's Eric Zorn today wrote that inadequacies in the investigation into the veracity of the Dean's unattributed quotations are creating more questions, rather than allaying concerns of fabrication:
See the full article.


Daily: 'Similar' Not Good Enough

The Editorial Board at the Daily Northwestern published an Editorial in today's issue of the Daily Northwestern calling the Provost's investigation inadequate:

"For journalists, similar is not good enough. There is no point in tape recording and note-taking if a journalist can remember the basic idea from a source and present it as verbatim speech. Those working in public relations can tweak statements in order to prevent their bosses from sounding unintelligent, but reporters cannot rewrite quotes at leisure. If a person doesn't say a particular statement, it does not belong within quotation marks."

See the full opinion here.

Tribune editor: Investigation a 'bunch of spin'

Tribune editor Margaret O'Brien (Medill MSJ '99) and member of the "Save Journalism" Facebook group criticized the Provost's investigation of alleged ethics violations by the Dean in a comment posted this weekend on the group's wall. (JS.blogspot.com contacted O'Brien to authenticate her statement and publish it with her permission):

The provost's letter reminded me of the Washington Post reporter who had to give up her Pulitzer in the 80s after it was discovered the kid Jimmy in her story was a "composite" gleaned from other research. The difference is Ben Bradlee offered a humble apology while the super-resumed committee found enough to make a similar composite and said that was good enough.

I'm disappointed, mostly in the process. They owed a bunch of journalists a better investigation. Not a bunch of spin.


Results from the Provost's investigation

The provost's office has conducted its investigation of Dean Lavine and sent us this message this morning:
To the Medill Community:

As you are doubtless aware, concerns have been raised about certain passages in the "Letter from the Dean" which appeared in the Spring 2007 issue of the Medill Magazine, the school's alumni publication. In particular, questions were raised about the use of unattributed quotations, with some people going further to question the veracity of those quotations.

The first issue is one of editorial policy, and Dean Lavine in a recent message has pledged that the policy will be changed to require attribution for all quotations in Medill publications. The allegation regarding possible fabrication is, of course, very serious, whatever the type of article or publication. Thus, I appointed an ad hoc committee to review the available information and to advise me regarding these issues.

The committee consisted of three Medill graduates who have had distinguished records of achievement in journalism and the media. The committee included Jack Fuller, a Pulitzer Prize winner who served as editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune and whose books include the highly-regarded News Values: Ideas for an Information Age; Teresa Norton, a member of the Board of Trustees of Northwestern University and the Medill Board of Advisors, former managing editor of Crain’s Business Insurance magazine, former award-winning partner of Hewitt Associates management consultants, and retired founder of Vineyard 29 Enterprises; and Paul Sagan, co-chair of the Medill Board of Advisors and also a member of the University's Board of Trustees, who has served as news director of WCBS-TV in New York, co-founder and vice president for news of the New York 1 News cable network, president and editor of new media at Time, Inc., and is currently president and CEO of Akamai Technologies.

The committee unanimously concluded that although a record of the student statements that were quoted cannot be found, sufficient material does exist about the relevant storefront reporting experience and marketing course to demonstrate that sentiments similar to the quotes had been expressed by students. Thus, the committee found that there is ample evidence that the quotes were consistent with sentiment students expressed about the course in course evaluations and no evidence to point to any likelihood that the quotes were fabricated. The committee further stated that the author of a piece like the "Letter from the Dean" could not reasonably be expected to have retained for a year the notes or e-mails documenting the sources of quotations used in the letter; nonetheless, the committee advised that in the future such meticulous archiving might be desirable given the heightened awareness of the problems that can result.

I accept the committee's conclusions. While I join Dean Lavine in wishing that material demonstrating the sources of the quotations was readily available, I have determined that no violation of University policy has occurred in connection with the Spring 2007 "Letter from the Dean." I have confidence in Dean Lavine to continue to lead the Medill School of Journalism.

That so many people - including students, faculty, and alumni - expressed views on this matter testifies to their deep commitment to Medill. I hope you will join me in supporting the Medill School and its leadership as it works to ensure that the School's storied role and distinguished reputation as a leader in journalism education continue as it and the profession face the challenges of the twenty-first century.

Daniel Linzer

Provost: No Violation of University Policy

Northwestern University Provost Daniel Linzer issued a statement today concluding Dean John Lavine did not violate University Policy in his use of unnamed sources.

Linzer's decision was based on the review of an ad hoc committee of three Medill graduates and experienced journalists. Two of the committee members serve on the Medill Board of Advisers.

Linzer's statement does not comment on whether Lavine's actions violated Medill's internal policy.


Daily: Three Groups Meet to Discuss 'Quotegate'

The Daily Northwestern reports that three groups held separate meetings on Wednesday to discuss how to proceed with the Dean's quote controversy.

We, the creators of journalistsspeak.blogspot.com, met Wednesday to discuss plans for a forum to take place during reading week.

The Medill Student Advisory Committee and the Medill faculty both held separate, closed-door meetings, as well.

We'll bring you the details of those meetings as they become available.

*Just a clarification, since the Daily Northwestern article (although we appreciate the coverage) has a couple of errors in it.

1. Tricia Bobeda, one of the four blog contributors, is a junior, not a senior.
2. No alumni were present at our meeting, although we hope to involve them in this process moving forward.



The Chicago Tribune's Eric Zorn today provided evidence confirming the veracity of David Spett's reporting and concluded the Dean must now prove he did not fabricate the quotes he wrote in an article for the Medill Magazine.

In his article, Zorn publishes the reporting of Medill Professor David Protess who conducted a taped interview with the dean, and contacted the five possible juniors in the class who could have said the quotates the Dean attribute a junior as saying. Protess confirmed "All the students denied saying the quote, even when I promised not to print their names." Protess provided Zorn with emails and notes as proof of his reporting. Zorn said he independently confirmed Protess' reports that the five juniors denied ever saying the quotes.
It seems to me that this puts the ball squarely back in Dean John Lavine's court; that a great preponderance of evidence now suggests that "a Medill junior" did not speak or write or otherwise communicate those words to him, and the burden's on him to prove otherwise.
Read the full article.


Washington Post Continues Coverage

The Washington Post published an article on early Saturday morning continuing to probe the controversy revolving around Dean Lavine's use of annonymous sources.

Check out the article.


240 Students/Alumni Sign Statement

Medill seniors Aaron Gannon, Emmet Sullivan and Margaret Matray delivered a statement signed by 240 Medill students and alumni to the offices of NU President Henry Bienen, Provost Daniel Linzer and Dean John Lavine late this afternoon.

The statement calls for more conversation and explanation of the quotation controversy.

See the whole statement here.


LATEST: Dean Issues Statement

Dear Medill Colleagues and Students,

In the middle of the controversy over two letters to the alumni that I wrote last year in Medill magazine, I want to make what for me is a very important point.

I have been in journalism for more than 40 years as a reporter, editor, publisher and educator. I do not make up quotes.

But I did exercise poor judgment, and I apologize for that. I used a quote from a student in a letter I wrote in the Spring 2007 issue of Medill without naming the student. I should have asked permission to use the student's name with their comment about the IMC 303 class.

Although our alumni magazine has run unattributed direct and indirect quotes before, as your dean I must ensure that the magazine, as one of the many public faces of the School, should operate with the highest possible standards.

Medill faculty teach our students that journalism should be transparent. It is a mistake when I don't set the best example I can. Just as our faculty set high classroom standards for students learning to be journalists, as dean I should exhibit those standards.

Today I met with the Dean's Council, a group of 14 faculty and staff members who are deeply involved in teaching and in administering the school. We agreed to review the standards for all work published under the Medill banner. I will set up a faculty committee this week to begin that process.

I had hoped to write this letter earlier and quickly settle this controversy by providing the emails and notes I used as the basis for the letter to alumni. I and others searched my email from a year ago. Then we tried to retrieve email that had been deleted at the time when the article was written. After extensive efforts on the part of Microsoft, they said that after five days, the system my office uses permanently deletes messages that I have deleted, and they cannot be recovered.

My second mistake was that I did not save the notes I took in the IMC class. That was careless and something I knew never to do as a reporter.

Now, the matter has been referred to NU Provost Dan Linzer's office and until that review is complete, I have been asked to hold further comment. I am anxious to more fully discuss this matter with you when the Provost's work is done.



Lavine on Medill 2020 in '06 Interview

Firefox users right-click on the video and select Play.

or click here if the player doesn't work on your web browser.

Blog Creators Craft Statement

The creators of this blog want to give students a chance to voice all of our opinions and organize our thoughts into one unified voice. We agree with the faculty statement, but we think that students have unique concerns that need to be addressed.

The point of this blog is to start a conversation among the Medill community that is not anonymous, inflammatory and/or libelous.

To that end, we have sent this statement to Medill students and alumni and urge them to join the 240 students and alumni (and counting) in signing this petition to be sent to the dean and administration by the end of the week. The facebook group "Save Journalism at Medill" created by the blog contributors has 252 members.

If you have not received the petition but want to sign it, email savejournalismatmedill@gmail.com

Be heard. Be part of the conversation.

Is this 'worth all the screaming and fussing'?

Alumnus Terry Sacks doesn't think so. The Chicago Tribune quoted the 1948 Medill graduate in its most recent coverage. Sacks told the Tribune the controversy bothered him more than Lavine's use of unidentified sources.

The Tribune gave journalistsspeak.blogspot.com contributor and Medill junior the last word.
Tricia Bobeda, a Medill junior who created the Facebook group, questioned why Lavine hasn't discussed the issue with students.

"Now that this is out in the open, this is an issue of journalism ethics and it needs to be discussed," she said. "I don't want the dean's actions to be reflective of the standards of the school."

The Daily Northwestern published an editorial today about the dean's handling of this situation as well.


Northwestern: We 'take such matters seriously'

According to today's Chicago Sun-Times article covering the faculty statement, Northwestern's spokesman Al Cubbage issued a statement saying the Office of the Provost is reviewing the matter and that the university "takes such matters seriously." 

These are the first responses we've seen from the university itself.

Read the Chicago Sun-Times story here.

Faculty: Dean Must Produce Notes to End 'Crisis'

Sixteen members (mostly untenured) of the Medill faculty today issued a public statement calling for the Dean to produce his notes to corroborate the accuracy of his quotations.
In the letter, the faculty suggest the dean go as far as "have the IT department retrieve that deleted e-mail" to solve what the faculty describe as a "crisis."

Faculty statement:
  • Accuracy and truthfulness are non-negotiable
  • Dean's video of similar, not exact, quotes is "inadequate"
  • Spett's work praised
Here is the statement, as printed in the Daily Northwestern

The following faculty signed the statement:

Mary Coffman, Associate Professor
Douglas Foster, Associate Professor
Eric Ferkenhoff, Lecturer (photo not available)
Loren Ghiglione, Professor
George Harmon, Associate Professor
Sharon Kornely, Senior Lecturer
Craig L. LaMay, Associate Professor
Donna Leff, Professor
Arsenio Oloroso, Lecturer
Marcel Pacatte, Lecturer
David Protess, Professor
Larry Stuelpnagel, Assistant Professor
Mindy Trossman, Assistant Professor
Mary Ann Weston, Associate Professor Emerita
Charles Whitaker, Assistant Professor
Jon Ziomek, Assistant Professor Emeritus

Read the Tribune coverage of the faculty letter.
Read the Daily Northwestern's coverage of the faculty letter.
Read Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune's editorial.
Michael Miner blogged about this for the Chicago Reader.

Not a great week for Columbia's dean either...

An excerpt from InsideHigherEd.com's Quick Takes:
Journalism school woes: Nicholas Lemann, the dean at Columbia University, was trying to send class project evaluations back to his students and accidentally sent them his own self-evaluation of his performance, a memo intended for the provost. The future journalists promptly leaked the dean’s self-evaluation to Jim Romenesko’s blog, and he shared Lemann’s thoughts with a broader audience. The memo includes an overview of journalism education and the particular challenges faced by Columbia as an expensive graduate program. Lemann fares better on Romenesko, however, than John Lavine, dean of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Several professors sent him a memo, now on the blog, expressing concern about his response to criticisms of his use of student quotes in his column in the school’s magazine. Some students have questioned the quotes authenticity.

Chicago Tribune's editorial

From an editorial that ran in the Chicago Tribune on Feb. 15

The dean of one of the most prestigious journalism schools in the country, writing for that school's alumni magazine, should know that students will hold him to the standards they must meet. Unnamed sources should be used sparingly and only when necessary. And their identities always should be cataloged by the writer.

Read the whole editorial here.


We'll show you the letter when it becomes available.


One week later, Dean Still Silent to Students

One week after 'Quotegate' broke with Spett's op-ed challenging the dean's sourcing practices, Medill's Dean Lavine has yet to address formally his undergraduate and graduate students...and students are asking "why?".

Steve Silver (Medill '08) today joined the newly formed Facebook group "Save Journalism at Medill" where he posted this comment:
Is it just me or has Lavine not addressed this issue to the students yet? For someone with such a love for PR and Marketing he is doing a really poor job of image control.

*Silver's Facebook post reprinted here with permission.

We'll post Lavine's statement to the student body if/when he makes it.


Spett on 'Quotegate'

David Spett comments to JournalistsSpeak.blogspot.com's Aaron Gannon (Medill '08) on the recent fallout from his op-ed in the Daily Northwestern.


Integrity Code: Journalism and Marketing Communications Must Meet Standards

An excerpt from the Feb. 14 Chicago Tribune article:

He [Medill School of Journalism Dean John Lavine] defended his use of anonymous quotes by drawing a distinction between a news story and a "letter" to alumni in a magazine.

"Context is all-important. I wasn't doing a news story. I wasn't covering the news," Lavine said. "When I write news stories, I am as careful and thorough about sources as anyone you will find. ... This is not a news story. This is a personal letter."

Below is a portion of the Medill Integrity Code, an addendum to the Medill Code of Ethics sent in 2007:
Read the rest of the code.

Dean's letter to the faculty

Dean Lavine sent the following letter to the faculty in response to David Spett's column:

Dear Medill Faculty Colleague,

On the front page of today's Chicago Tribune ... you will find a story about me and two letters I wrote a year ago to our alumni in our magazine, Medill.

My summary of this incident is that I commend Daily Northwestern columnist David Spett for raising the issue of unnamed sources. It is a very important topic. His column also illustrates our teaching and commitment to our students doing enterprise journalism.

The quotes David wondered about are what students told me. They are real quotes, a fact that was demonstrated by my including in my letter to the alumni a link to a student video that showed students making the same kind of points. There was no shortage of material from students for these quotes.

If you have any questions or thoughts about these matters, as always please let me know.

Best regards,


Thank you for the response, Dean Lavine. However, shouldn't this have been passed on to students as well? We deserve an explanation too as to what happened.

Score one for the little guy?

US News and World Report tackles the topic of the Dean's journalistic standards. Northwestern Columnist Questions Dean's Anonymous Sources

Tribune Names the Controversy

Like the journalists before him covering controveries like Deep Throat and Watergate, Chicago Tribune veteran reporter Eric Zorn JUST termed the current controversy at Medill as "Quotegate" in his daily blog 'Change of Subject'.  

He adds that his "rubbish needle (is) dancing" around the Dean's explanation for not naming his sources in a recent piece of journalism Lavine authored. Two other reporters weigh in on the story. Comments are piling up on the Tribune's website.

2nd Medill Undergrad Demands Dean 'Apologize'

The country's oldest media journal Editor and Publisher just published Medill senior Emily Vaugh's column demanding the dean either apologize or further explain his refusal to source his quotations.

Editor and Publisher is read by academics in journalism and is sure to spark further discussion. We'll post that discussion as it comes today and in the coming days.

NPR Interviews Spett

NPR's Michel Norris interviews Daily Northwestern columnist and Medill senior David Spett about a column he wrote challenging the unattributed quotations in a piece of writing Dean John Lavine published in Medill's Alumni publication. Check out the FULL 4:30 minute interview that aired on Wednesday, February 24.