Northwestern: No Evidence of Made-Up Quotes

A student journalist questioned whether Dean John Lavine fabricated quotes in the alumni magazine.
A student journalist questioned whether Dean John Lavine fabricated quotes in the alumni magazine. (Diana Bergren - Medill School Of Journalism)
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Associated Press
Saturday, March 1, 2008

CHICAGO, Feb. 29 -- The dean of Northwestern University's prestigious Medill School of Journalism was cleared Friday by the provost of making up quotes from unidentified students for use in the alumni magazine.

Provost Daniel Linzer wrote to an alumni e-mail group that he accepts the conclusions of a committee that reviewed two letters Dean John Lavine wrote for the magazine last year in which he used unnamed sources.

In one of the quotes, Lavine cited a Medill junior praising a particular advertising class, saying in part: "I sure felt good about this class. It is one of the best I've taken."

Wrote Linzer: "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."

In a column this month for the student newspaper, the Daily Northwestern, student David Spett wrote that he questioned all 29 students in the advertising class and that all denied saying the quote, even when promised anonymity.

Medill students are instructed to be careful in using anonymous sources. Professors often require students to submit contact information for each person quoted in their articles to guard against quotes being made up.

Lavine said Friday that he appreciates the committee's review and that the school's journalism faculty was now focused on moving Medill ahead.

"I'm not surprised with their conclusions and, of course, am pleased with it," Lavine said. The committee unanimously found that even though no record of the student quotes could be found, Lavine could not be expected to keep such notes or e-mails documenting the sources for a year.

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