Throughout the year, I’ve noticed a similar trend of bias among some Medill professors, whether intentional or not. One of the big points of pride for Medill is bringing in guest speakers who are experts in their fields to speak with us young reporters. But the speakers tend to fall along similar ideological lines. One came from the progressive Truman Project (sponsored by the left-wing Center for American Progress); a speaker from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (the FBI is currently investigating CAIR for having roots in a Hamas-support network); and a Chicago physician who preached about the merits of a single-payer health care system (a liberal viewpoint).
Even more surprising: About 15 percent of the full-time Medill journalism faculty has contributed to Democrats running for political office (including three of my professors), according to a database of campaign contributions dating to 1990 on OpenSecrets.org. Dean John Lavine has contributed about $13,000 to Democrats over those several election cycles, including $4,300 to President Barack Obama since 2004. (To be fair, he did donate $250 to a Virginia Republican). Only one full-time Medill professor contributed exclusively to Republican causes.
In an e-mail response, Lavine said, “When I covered campaigns, I never gave money to a candidate, and I don’t believe reporters should … (While) pure objectivity is unobtainable; rigorous reporting and full disclosure is obtainable.”
Lavine also suggested I “expand my premise about journalistic objectivity” and gave a response worthy of any media ethics class. He said he and his wife did support Obama, but quickly pointed out they also once supported a Republican for governor. However, “supported” only means so much. There’s an old saying that goes, “Put your money where your mouth is,” and Lavine’s money hasn’t gone to a Republican in 14 years, according to OpenSecrets.org.
Lavine’s email talks about transparency and journalistic integrity, yet he did not respond to my question on the hypocrisy of those Medill’s professors donating money to a political cause.
Medill preaches, above all else, that if our integrity as journalists is compromised, we lose our credibility. But to have teachers openly criticize a conservative news network with such animosity and have some faculty members financially contribute to Obama smacks of arrogance.
I understand I am an outlier among my graduate classmates when it comes to my political views. I was called a “lone wolf” by one professor for having conservative views. I often hear professors, guest speakers and classmates mock Fox’s “fair and balanced” slogan. What I am forced to ask is whether it’s ethical for some of a journalism school’s professors to participate in such a culture. The culture of any organization comes from the top down. When the top leans strongly one-way, a trickledown will surely spill into the learning environment.
That trickledown effect is unacceptable.