Northwestern Columnist Questions Dean’s Anonymous Sources

A senior at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism has dared to challenge that school's dean

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Score one for the little guy? A senior at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism has dared to challenge that school's dean, John Lavine, by questioning the administrator's use of anonymous sources in his writings for the Medill magazine.

David Spett's column in the Daily Northwestern asks why, in one case, Lavine felt the need to attribute a seemingly innocuous quote to an anonymous junior. The quote:

"I came to Medill because I want to inform people and make things better. Journalism is the best way for me to do that, but I sure felt good about this class. It is one of the best I've taken, and I learned many things in it that apply as much to truth-telling in journalism as to this campaign to save teenage drivers."

Spett then did his own investigative work and couldn't find any student who admitted to saying or E-mailing the quote to the dean.

Lavine defended the authenticity of the quotes to the Chicago Tribune, saying, "Context is all-important. I wasn't doing a news story. I wasn't covering the news.... 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."

The controversy has put Lavine's contested curriculum overhaul, announced last year, under greater scrutiny and has provided fodder for discussion in Medill's own journalism ethics classes. Said one student: "It is an opinion piece, but it is not just like anyone writing an opinion piece. He is the dean of a journalism school."