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 head 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.
Friday, February 29, 2008
Thursday, February 28, 2008
In fact, I know I'm not. We have been emailing each other news clips and commentary on the controversy. This is from an email my friend Nick Taborek wrote last week to about 15 of us:
Guys, please cool it on the dean bashing. I mean, Lavine already defended the integrity of his work: Other students said somewhat similar things in reference to other, somewhat similar classes. Then they posted videos containing these comments on youtube.Hard to argue!
Therefore Lavine's quotes are real and he should not have to produce his notes. It makes perfect sense.
Obviously there's no way to know really whether the various anonymous quotes Lavine used in his column are fabricated or not, at least not yet. But boy oh boy do they ever read like bullshit! For those who haven't been following this controversy, here are some words the dean claimed a student voluntarily said to him:
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.There will always be students who desire to kiss asses, but I know very few who would do so in phrases quite that stilted and PR-friendly. So the fact that all subsequent re-reporting has been consistent with the original allegations is not a shock to me.
And based on what I saw of John Lavine while I was getting my MSJ last year, I've gotta say, it doesn't feel out of character, either.
I was a member of the first graduate class to enter Medill under Lavine. I graduated in four quarters, and was fortunate enough to get a job as a reporter and blogger for a daily newspaper, where I am doing just fine, thank you. And I actually agreed with a non-trivial number of Lavine's ideas about where the school should go. It is a good idea to train all young journalists to make podcasts, take photos, do some simple video editing. It's good to be responsive to an audience, a little marketing needn't be antithetical to Real Journalism and so on. There was absolutely a cohort of old-guard j-profs at Medill who tried to argue for the Old Ways, not always very persuasively. I was never a bitter ideological enemy of Lavine's.
But as a dean, by all indications John Lavine was paranoid, petty, and totally dismissive of opposing viewpoints. He retaliated or threatened retaliation against faculty members who disagreed with him. He scheduled "listening sessions" with students -- I attended three -- where he not only didn't listen, he dug in deeper to his pre-existing views and talking points.
A couple of weeks before I graduated, I sat down with a veteran staff member, who closed the door of her office so that we could gossip properly about what was going on at the school. She was not quite joking when she said it felt like the Bush administration had taken over Medill -- same obsession with loyalty, same attitude toward dissent, same myopia. (Not to mention, lately, the same approval rating! Thank you, thank you, tip your waitresses.)
Would this controversy have erupted if John Lavine were a beloved dean who had shown real respect for Medill faculty and students? Of course not. But then, a beloved dean probably wouldn't have had to make up quotes in the first place.
I know we don't really know he's guilty. The student who said "Jeepers, Dean Lavine, my class was the bestest!" or whatever may yet come forward and vindicate the man. But let's just say that doesn't happen. And let's just say Lavine is asked to resign. If that happens, I will not be the only recent Medill grad happy to see him go.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
But to Byron York of National Review, Obama's debate performance indicated "reluctance...to reject Farrakhan's support," which clearly raises questions and etc. etc. To you or me, this might seem to be a pretty thin reed for York to grasp at, but I guess if you are York you have to work with what you have.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Even as Mrs. Clinton clings to her latest firewall -- the March 4 contests -- she is still being outhustled. Last week she told reporters that she "had no idea" that the Texas primary system was "so bizarre" (it's a primary-caucus hybrid), adding that she had "people trying to understand it as we speak." Perhaps her people can borrow the road map from Obama's people. In Vermont, another March 4 contest, The Burlington Free Press reported that there were four Obama offices and no Clinton offices as of five days ago. For what will no doubt be the next firewall after March 4, Pennsylvania on April 22, the Clinton campaign is sufficiently disorganized that it couldn't file a complete slate of delegates by even an extended ballot deadline.I actually thought the column felt a lot like piling on, but whatever. It's true Obama's campaign has seemed more organized and better prepared at just about every turn. Learning about the Texas rules after putting the firewall storyline out there is embarrassing any way you slice it.
This is the candidate who keeps telling us she's so competent that she'll be ready to govern from Day 1.
Friday, February 22, 2008
By signing up for matching money, McCain agreed to adhere to strict state-by-state spending limits and an overall limit on spending of $54 million for the primary season, which lasts until the party's nominating convention in September. The general election has a separate public financing arrangement. [...](Emphasis added.) It is hard to believe that McCain really isn't going to be permitted to wriggle out of this agreement at some point. But every day he has to fight with the FEC is a day his campaign isn't operating at full speed. And it is a long time until September.
If the FEC refuses McCain's request to leave the system, his campaign could be bound by a potentially debilitating spending limit until he formally accepts his party's nomination. His campaign has already spent $49 million, federal reports show. Knowingly violating the spending limit is a criminal offense that could put McCain at risk of stiff fines and up to five years in prison.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
If Obama is winning in terms of pledged delegates, and he's leading in the national polls, and he's leading in fundraising, and he's doing better than Clinton in head-to-head matchups with McCain it's simply inconceivable that superdelegates (much less Obama's delegates!) are going to swing to her banner.(Original emphasis.)
Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign intends to go after delegates whom Barack Obama has already won in the caucuses and primaries if she needs them to win the nomination.
This strategy was confirmed to me by a high-ranking Clinton official on Monday. And I am not talking about superdelegates, those 795 party big shots who are not pledged to anybody. I am talking about getting pledged delegates to switch sides.
I don't care if it's "legal" - that's some third world shit.
I predict a.). The least likely by far is b.). I am looking forward to finding out in the morning. I haven't had any reason to read one of his "The Papers" columns in ages so this is a new thing for me...
UPDATE [2/19 10:58am] ... Whaddya know, the correct answer was all of the above. Rhodes a.) ignores the no-special-deal news, b.) goes on at length about how Obama totally knew Rezko, and c.) concludes that "the campaign's maneuver only heightens suspicions."
Of course, at this point, if the campaign ordered sandwiches for lunch, Rhodes would probably say that that, too, "only heightens suspicions."
Monday, February 18, 2008
Sunday, February 17, 2008
As Obamentum grows, Clinton's flailing campaign keeps lashing out with a curious, erratic core-dump of charges: The states he won don't matter. Caucuses, where she's been stomped, shouldn’t count as much as primaries.
Guess what, team? It’s been your effing job to know how to win caucuses. You can’t blame the people for not ‘realizing’ your candidate was the best. You have to show them. Clinton's ground game has been eviscerated by Obama's superior organization and management. Even Gov. Rendell, one of her highest profile endorsers, admits they didn't have any post-Super Tuesday plan.
Who was “ready”? Who was “prepared”?
Experience doesn't mean "readiness". Failing (colossally) at delivering on health care 14 years ago does not make one best qualified to head up another try. I would agree with her new talking point that “solutions are more important than words.” What were her campaign’s words at the beginning?: “She’s inevitable.” Consider the results since:
In 12 months, a black guy whose last name rhymes with "Osama" and who served half a term in the US Senate, built a grassroots campaign from nothing. Facing a candidate known by virtually everyone and with super-high positives in the party, who was supported by the bulk of the party establishment and informed by its most celebrated veteran (read "experienced") consultants, he now leads by every measure — popular vote, number of states won, and delegates, with or without the supers. He has raised exponentially more money than any other primary campaign in history. In one month (January) he raised more than Howard Dean's entire 2004 campaign. Where's the solution, Senator?
The messaging battle – key to winning in November and to executing an agenda when in power—is being won by Obama already:
By arguing that one of Clinton’s key virtues was her ability to go toe-to-toe with the GOP attack machine, her campaign exacerbated instead of ameliorated her reputation for ruthlessness. “By bragging about how tough they were,” says John Edwards’s former chief strategist, Joe Trippi, “they reinforced the sense of the media that everything they did had a negative cast to it.” At the same time, Trippi argues, “it made it really hard for them to call Obama on his shit. How can you complain about Obama being negative when you’re bragging about your willingness to do the same thing against the Republicans?”
Now, Obama needs to seal the messaging deal. If Hillary was unprepared for caucuses, unprepared for a post-Super Tuesday campaign, unprepared for coherent messaging, why should we believe she can manage the federal government competently on “day one”?
The case is there for the making.
UPDATE [2/18 9:30AM]: Jason Zengerle at The Plank echoes my sentiments in reference to this WaPo story:
Several top Clinton strategists and fundraisers became alarmed after learning of the state's unusual provisions during a closed-door strategy meeting this month, according to one person who attended...What Clinton aides discovered is that in certain targeted districts...Clinton could win an overwhelming majority of votes but gain only a small edge in delegates.Welcome to the campaign, Clinton camp.
Friday, February 15, 2008
His African travels are not about peacemaking, but Bush said that during the trip, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will split off to Kenya to support political reconciliation led by former U.N. chief Kofi Annan.Unintentionally hilarious. As a sidebar, I was on the Hill yesterday and by chance got to see the walkout by Republicans. Minority staff was excited to see their guys come together and act like, ya know, the minority for once. I think everyone else just thought, "are you kidding me?"
Bush offered to delay going to Africa if it would help settle an unrelated fight with Congress about a terrorist surveillance law. He did not make clear how such a postponement would help.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
So if I can be a little bit catty for a moment, let me just say that Jonathan Alter of Newsweek asked a really silly question. He asked Gov. Doyle, who has endorsed Obama, what role Bill Clinton would play in the Wisconsin primary. This is a weird thing to ask because a.) Bill Clinton has no scheduled campaign stops in Wisconsin and b.) Doyle has nothing to do with the Clinton campaign so how should he know?
I suppose he could have been fishing for some Clinton-bashing, but to me it seemed like a wasted question. Not saying every question I've ever asked has been brilliant! Just saying, you know, that dude is a famous journalist who goes on TV and stuff, and that was the best he could do. Just saying...
[xpost What's Your Beef]
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
The weird part is that the hosts talked about the story as if they had been put up to it. There was no spontaneity, it seemed like they were reading from a script. While they were listing facts about Che Guevara they clearly were reading, but nevertheless. Is this actually a viable way to run against Obama? What kind of feeble mind is swayed by this kind of information? You can buy Che Guevara T-Shirts at Target.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
One of Barack Obama's major campaign themes is the promise that he will "unite" America. Obama is an incredibly skillfull campaigner, so I must assume that he wouldn't be pushing this trope unless there were good reason to believe that it works. Of course, Obama is far from the only politician to promise unity. Remember when George W. Bush promised that he would be a "uniter, not a divider"? That was a fairly successful campaign theme too.
This emphasis on unity for its own sake seems misplaced. After all, unity is really valuable only if we are united in doing the right thing. Being united in doing the wrong thing is surely worse than being divided, if only because division reduces the likelihood of the harmful policies being enacted. And even if the policies proposed by the would-be "uniter" really are beneficial, it's not clear why broad unity in support of them is preferable to just having enough votes to get them passed.
UPDATE: Leon Wieseltier in The New Republic asks: What's so great about hope?
Monday, February 11, 2008
The number of American presidential candidates varies with the sunspot cycle and the phases of the moon. Being a Republican, I'm backing . Because she could lose. The reason is not that she's a woman. The reason is that she's the particular woman who taught the 4th grade class that every man in America wished he were dead in. is Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown. is "America's ex-wife."
A man can be a Democrat to the core, going into the voting booth to pull the lever with the donkey label no matter what. Then he sees Hillary's name on the ballot. And it all comes back to him . . . the first marriage . . . the time he came home a little late, it wasn't even midnight, and he'd only had four or five beers, and she threw his bowling ball down the storm sewer.
lost some support among the hard-core fundamentalists when Bible Belt denizens realized that was the only candidate with enough guts to really handle rattlesnakes at church. The rest of the public remains alert to the fact that evangelical Christianity, as a movement, has two faces--the face and the face.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
The losses are a headache for Team [McCain] but has NO practical effect besides amping up the gusher of stories about McCain and the right. Don't forget these stories will HELP Sen. McCain with INDEPENDENTS come the fall - they will love that he's no captive of the right.Really? What if they force him to become a captive of the right? We know McCain has the nomination sewn up, but the fact is that he is going to have to do some major sucking up between now and November to sell himself to his party's activist base. It is not just Limbaugh.
Now, it's possible that the sucking up won't drive independents away. But it easily could and that is a real risk -- not just a "headache" -- that McCain is going to have to deal with. However, pointing this out would require departing from the time-honored Washington media truism that everything is good for McCain. So nevermind.
Friday, February 08, 2008
When Aleksandr Isaevich Solzhenitsyn delivered a brief address to a town hall meeting in Cavendish, Vermont, where he had lived for eighteen years with his family, in exile from Communist Russia, he paid poignant homage to “the sensible and sure process of grassroots democracy, in which the local population solves most of its problems on its own, not waiting for the decisions of higher authorities.” He declared also that, while “exile is always difficult,” he “could not imagine a better place to live, and wait, and wait for my return home,” than that little town. He expressed his gratitude for its respect for his privacy, and spoke warmly of its neighborliness. For his children, “Vermont is home,” for they have grown up “alongside your children.”
With a “God bless you all,” the great Russian finished — to a hearty ovation from those snowbound New Englanders.
What then should we make of the school of thought which would construct in our minds an America that is made up of abstractions only, or ideas foremost? What should we make of the theory that what is best, most memorial, admirable, great, unique, etc., about America is the idea alone; a theory often advanced so fervently, not to say feverishly, that not rarely does in tend toward derision or haughty dismissal of the facts or practicalities?
I think we should make of it that it is false and pernicious.
ATSRTWT. Bonus points if you know the meaning of the word "energumen."
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Jee-zus. The freaking Clinton camp is using "establishment" in a derisive tone... about Obama?!!
I guess I weigh 'established' people endorsing a candidate as less "establishment" than, you know, having your former-President husband as your #1 surrogate!!!!!!!
F*ck me. I might have to be done for a few days. Or, at least until this queasiness passes...
I continue to be shocked at how few pundits seem to do any real analysis/homework on the state of Missouri. They spout out terms like "bellwether" and "battleground". They regurgitate the same old "they've voted with the winner in 666 out of the last 667 Presidential elections" (or whatever the heck it is). But, few seem to mention the obvious and recurring phenomenon of late reporting by the St. Louis districts. It happens every time, and I'm confidently guessing it happened again last night.
The Republican (in this case Clinton) nearly always starts with a double-digit edge in early Missouri returns. The gap tends to narrow as the counting continues, particularly after Kansas City comes in. And, finally, when the St. Louis vote is counted/reported, the victor (in this case Obama) emerges. It is nearly impossible to overstate the diversity of this state. The early-reporting cracker vote went to Clinton and Huckabee. The later-reporting urban, left-leaning vote went to Obama and McCain. (I write this based on living through previous elections in my former home in the St. Louis area, not based on any specific poll data from yesterday--and certainly not any analysis I saw on TV last night.)
I think Missouri once again serves as a microcosm of the USA in this case: Obama is overcoming double-digit deficits in polls across the country, and my sincerest hope is that he will emerge victorious before this primary is finished.