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Arment Dietrich

Tainted Reputation

By: Arment Dietrich | February 22, 2008 | 
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Blog written by Angela Loiacono

The Medill School of Journalism used to stand on its own without an explanation. It’s one of the most highly regarded journalism programs in the country.  Yet, somehow the dean of the school John Lavine managed to taint this branch of Northwestern, and the Chicago Tribune told us all about it…a couple of times actually.

It all started when he made the grand decision to integrate marketing classes with traditional reporting classes. Now, coming from a public relations professional who graduated with a journalism degree, I know both sides of the coin.  But when you’re gaining a degree from an accelerated journalism program, you shouldn’t be forced to follow an integrated marketing curriculum. Sure, the fields are linked, but for all intents and purposes, when you’re learning journalism, marketing is on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Lavine, obviously hearing some backlash on his curriculum choices, wrote a letter in the school’s alumni magazine using unnamed sources who gave blush-producing praise on the new wave of class requirements.  When it all looked a little fishy to a Daily Northwestern columnist, he polled all 29 students in the class that the quote referred to. Every single one of them denied having given the quote.

Can we say convenient? Did he think that as the dean of the school no one would question his ethics? Did he not dwell on the notion that using quotes from students praising an idea that many others denounced might be questioned?

All the pieces fit together a little too well for Lavine to escape heavy scrutiny.  Pressure from more than 15 fellow professors pushed him to reveal his sources. Apparently, he already deleted the emails. And I guess Medill should start teaching its students that journalistic ethics don’t apply to all types of writing because Lavine clearly states that his letter is different from covering a news story — despite the fact that it appeared in a journalistic publication, written for journalists.

 

As someone who holds a journalism degree, I’m embarrassed that Lavine stands as a representative of the field. I hope he is too.  And by the way, the apology really doesn’t do anything for me — practice what you preach.

 

ONE MORE THING: Take a look at the quote that ends this Chicago magazine article.

 

Really John? Is that the method behind your decisions?