Letters to the Editor

Ethics in journalism a nationwide problem

Thursday’s New York Times article about Senator John McCain’s alleged ethics issues has reignited the national debate over the use of anonymous sources in the media. There is no better forum for this debate than Medill, the nation’s top journalism school. And I suspect discussions about the article and the sourcing done by the Times’ writers were taking place in classes throughout the McCormick Tribune Center all day. But this poses a problem for the Medill school – how do you have a frank discussion on the use of anonymous sources in journalism if your dean has no authority on the matter?

Medill Dean John Lavine may have apologized to the community – after fighting the charges for more than a week, I might add – but as a recent alumnus of the Medill school, I can assure you his lack of an alibi will not and should not be tolerated by the faculty. From the moment I walked into that building in the fall of 2004, it was made crystal clear to me that accuracy and sourcing were the most important aspects of journalism.

If I had turned in an article – or, I suppose, a “letter” – that used anonymous sources, my professors would not have looked at it, let alone published it. And if I did use an anonymous source, there’s no way I would have deleted the e-mail or lost my quotes. That kind of reporting is unacceptable at the Medill school, and Dean Lavine should know that better than anyone.

Dean Lavine may or may not have the truth on his side. But much like the reporters from the New York Times who compiled their story on Senator McCain, Dean Lavine has no evidence to support his point. As a practicing journalist with a Medill degree, I have learned that you can’t make claims without evidence to back them up. Dean Lavine and NYT Executive Editor Bill Keller will continue to spend a great deal of time explaining away their sins, but what they really deserve is what Medill students get when they don’t properly source their material – a big, red F.

– Steve BrauntuchMedill Graduate School ’05Chief Researcher, CBS Sports

“Social Diary” brings shame to the paper

I am writing to you to express my incredulity about the “Social Diary” section in the magazine.

This section may be the dumbest, most sophomoric and most unauthentic writing I’ve seen in The Daily. Considering that I am a senior who was formerly in Medill and who has read The Daily consistently, I’ve seen a lot of bad writing in The Daily, The Weekly and The Weekly’s predecessor, PLAY. But the “Social Diary” may take the cake.

Last week, I read about the girl whose boyfriend went down on her for the first time. Today, I am reading about an idiot girl who snorts coke and talks about sex pictures.

I understand that you and your staff want to be edgy and different. But there are other ways about going about these goals.

I get the feeling that you and your staff are like high school students who read “bad” words in books for the first time. I can sense the glee and stupid satisfaction of you and your staff as you chuckle and snort about what these “social diaries” say. Honestly, just because you can have someone claim to do these things, it doesn’t mean that you should publish it.

Talking about sex and drugs may sound really cool, and I am sure that it is a good ruse to get NU students to read the paper. However, just because you can publish articles and diaries about sex and drug use doesn’t mean you should. Unless you and your staff raise the dialogue about these subjects, you are doing nothing more than publishing ridiculous stories. You are no better than the entertainment industry that has put the likes of Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan on a high pedestal.

You can do better than this.

– Brendan ReardonWeinberg seniorFormer Daily?staffer