Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Investigative Reporters Speak Out Against Protess Punishment

A group of investigative journalists issued the following statement today about the Protess case at Northwestern University:


We are deeply concerned about what appears to be a retaliatory campaign by law enforcement authorities and Northwestern University against long-time investigative journalist and Professor David Protess.

Professor Protess has established a national reputation at Northwestern University by working with journalism students on investigations that have resulted in the release of a dozen innocent men from death row or long prison terms. His work and writings have inspired many to become investigative journalists and to the creation of innocence projects in their own communities.

This controversy began two years ago when the Cook County prosecutor began an unprecedented effort to obtain the notes, grades and emails of Professor Protess' students, who worked on the case of a man who appears to have been unjustly convicted.

Now Professor Protess' methods and honesty have been questioned not only by prosecutors, but by his employer, Northwestern University, and its attorneys. This month, in a highly unusual proceeding the University presented its case against Professor Protess to a closed session of the journalism faculty. Professor Protess was barred from the meeting, denying him an opportunity to confront the accusations. Then the university issued a press release making public the serious allegations against him, quickly adding that it would not comment any further.

Tarnished and isolated, Protess has been the subject of news reports and leaks that further damaged his reputation. In response, he has asked for an independent investigation into the allegations against him as well as the conduct of all those involved.

We support such an investigation and we call on our colleagues, especially those covering the news media, to join in investigating what is happening at Northwestern University. We also ask university officials to present themselves in a public session to explain their actions, and to answer questions on why they have endangered one of the premier investigative reporting projects in the country.

*Affiliation listed for identification purposes only

Prof. Lowell Bergman, Logan Professor of Investigative Reporting, UC Berkeley

Prof. Mark Feldstein, George Washington University

Prof. Brant Houston, Knight Chair in Investigative Reporting, University of Illinois

David Cay Johnston, investigative reporter and author

Prof. Charles Lewis, American University

Prof. Belle Adler, Northeastern University

Laurie Becklund, writer and author

Bill Boyarsky, political writer, Truthdig

David Burnham, Investigative Reporter

John Camp, former senior investigative correspondent, CNN

John S. Carroll, Retired Newspaper Editor

Prof. Wendell Cochran, American University

Sheila Coronel, Toni Stabile Professor of Professional Practice in Investigative Journalism, Columbia University

Prof. Stephen Doig, Knight Chair in Journalism, Arizona State University

Dan Gillmor, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Arizona State University, Author, “We the Media” and “Mediactive”

Prof. Theodore Glasser, Stanford University

Florence Graves, The Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism & The Justice Brandeis Innocence Project

Prof. Christopher Hanson, Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland

Ellen Hume, Annenberg Fellow in Civic Media, Central European University

Martin Koughan, former senior producer, CNN and CBS News

Prof. Jane E. Kirtley, Silha Professor of Media Ethics and Law, University of Minnesota

Prof. Marvin Kalb, Murrow Professor Emeritus, Kennedy School, Harvard University

Katherine Kross, ex-CNN and Bloomberg TV Washington bureau chief

Prof. David T. Z. Mindich, Media Studies chair, Saint Michael's College

Morton Mintz, Senior Advisor,, former Washington Post reporter

Jim Naughton, Emeritus President of The Poynter Institute.

James Neff, investigative journalist, author

Mark Nykanen, author and journalist, former NBC News correspondent

Prof. William Serrin, New York University

Prof. Herman Schwartz, American University’s Washington College of Law

Ira Silverman, former senior producer, NBC News

Prof. Edward Wasserman, Knight Professor of Journalism Ethics, Washington and Lee University

Prof. Steve Weinberg, author and emeritus professor, University of Missouri

Henry Weinstein, Professor the Practice of Law and Senior Lecturer in Literary Journalism, University of California, Irvine

Tracy Wood, investigative reporter

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