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Tuesday, July 11, 2023

A comment on Northwestern football and student journalism

I stopped watching football about a decade ago, finding the game too gladiatorial. For about five years I maintained a "Northwestern Football" exception, but that dissolved. Nevertheless, the reports of hazing and other misconduct within the program and Fitzgerald's firing sadden me. Fitzgerald was Northwestern football and a successful football team (even if somewhat sporadically) did great things for Northwestern as an institution. I do not know what happened in the lockerroom over the years--my best guess is the stories are substantially true, but how people looked at them ran the gamut, at least until the team stopped winning.

The Daily Northwestern story published on Saturday marked the turning point in this. Prior to that, it appeared the situation would resolve quietly--the university received an investigatory report that found the allegations "largely supported by evidence," suspended Fitzgerald for two weeks in July, and planned to keep the details internal. The Daily story* publicized the details, while opening the floodgates to more stories, more people, and more details.

[*] One of the four bylined authors is a friend's daughter.

Many people frame this as Northwestern's journalism program prevailing over Northwestern's football program or Northwestern's football program being no match for Northwestern's journalism program. This is pedantic, but I do not like the framing. The Daily Norhtwetsern, which reported and published the stories, is independent of Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism (of which I am a graduate). Medill does not run the paper; Daily reporters need not be journalism majors; and most journalism majors (including myself and many of my friends) never worked for it. I do not know much about the publication process or about any faculty input into the publication process, but I expect the students made the key decisions on their own. So I am glad for the praise on student journalists and on the students running the Daily, but separate it from the journalism school.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 11, 2023 at 10:07 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink


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