Student Journalists Under Fire

Illinois prosecutors have Northwestern student journalists in their sights.

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Attacking student media is all the rage these days—at least it seems that way. Northwestern University's student journalists are the most recent characters in a legal fight.

Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism has a reputation as one of the top J-schools in the world. Its students receive a ton of training in investigative reporting and produce plenty of solid work, including a recent discovery that calls into question the guilt of a convicted murderer. But Illinois prosecutors think the student journalists may have gone too far in their investigation, and the Medill students are suddenly in the legal spotlight. Cook County prosecutors have asked to see all investigative materials, E-mails, course outlines, syllabi, training materials, and grades, the New York Times reports. The prosecutors argue that the school "conducted a private criminal investigation by using students in a journalism class." And because the students didn't produce a single article from their findings, the prosecution says that they are not journalists and cannot protect their work, the report says.

This all started after Medill's Innocence Project uncovered evidence that suggested that a convicted murderer was wrongfully convicted and imprisoned, the Times report says. The director of the Innocence Project, Prof. David Protess, tells the Times that he will not hand over any of the investigation's materials.

That's not the only case that has carried student journalists into the spotlight. We've chronicled several other recent instances where student journalists have come under fire, from James Madison University and the University of Pittsburgh to Northern Illinois University and Butler University.

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