Lavine defends quotes in letter to faculty

Libby Nelson

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Medill Dean John Lavine denied accusations Thursday that he had fabricated quotes in two columns for the school’s alumni magazine.

Lavine, already a controversial figure at the Medill School of Journalism because of the curricular changes he has instituted since 2006, came under scrutiny in a Feb. 14 Chicago Tribune article after a column in Tuesday’s Daily questioned his use of anonymous sources.

In last spring’s alumni magazine, Lavine wrote an introductory letter that quoted an anonymous Medill junior talking about an advertising class.

“I came to Medill because I want to inform people and make things better,” the quote reads. “Journalism is the best way for me to do that, but 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.”

Columnist David Spett contacted the 29 students in the class, but none said they had made the comment to Lavine, via e-mail or in person.

“The quotes (Spett) wondered about are what students told me,” Lavine said in a written statement to Medill faculty Thursday, adding that the letter in question included a link to a video with students saying similar things.

The letter is still online in the archived magazine, but the video was no longer available.

“There was no shortage of material from students for these quotes,” he said.

Earlier this year, a professor at the University of Missouri was fired as a columnist for the university paper after it was revealed that he had taken quotes from a story reported by a student.

University spokesman Al Cubbage said the university had no comment beyond Lavine’s statement.