Friday, February 29, 2008

Medill provost statement on Lavinegate

Posted to the listserv today:
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.

Daniel Linzer
Provost
  • Looks like they're going with the Taborek line, which is "someone somewhere said something similar, ergo these particular quotes are not made up." I don't buy it, but then I am not the provost, am I?

  • Also, you've got to love Medill, a place where they feel it's necessary to list the full resumes of each committee member.

  • I guess the remaining question is, how much (if at all) does this incident hobble John Lavine from making changes at the school going forward? And what, if anything, happens to the 17 professors who called for the dean to produce his sources?
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