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.