By Jodi S. Cohen and Tara Malone
Chicago Tribune (MCT)
Journalists love to debate the use of anonymous sources, but the discussion this week at Northwestern University’s journalism school is no hypothetical: the texts are published columns by the controversial dean of the school, John Lavine.
Earlier this week, a columnist for The Daily Northwestern, a student newspaper, questioned the use of anonymous quotes in two introductory letters Lavine wrote last year for the Medill alumni magazine.
“I sure felt good about this class. It is one of the best I’ve taken,” reads part of one quotation, which, Lavine wrote, “a Medill junior told me.”
The unnamed student appears to be talking about a class in which students developed “a fully integrated marketing program,” an emphasis which Lavine has promoted over the protest of some alumni and students.
In the same piece, Lavine quotes “one sophomore” who glowingly praises a new reporting program, concluding, “This is the most exciting my education has been.”
At Medill, one of the country’s premier journalism schools, training in the careful use of unnamed sources is emphasized.
Professors routinely require students to submit names and contact information for every person quoted in their articles, a guard against fabrication.
So Lavine’s use of anonymous quotes raised the suspicions of David Spett, a Medill senior and Daily Northwestern columnist.