Editorial: Northwestern journalism students set example


In one of the rare instances where sports news bleeds into, well, “news” news, a scandal within familiar Big Ten rival Northwestern's football program was reported by the Daily Northwestern, the college's student newspaper.

For those unfamiliar with the situation, the Wildcats' head football coach Pat Fitzgerald was placed on a two-week suspension after the results of an independent investigation into a claim of hazing were released on July 7.

“It was found that ‘the complainant’s claims were largely supported by evidence gathered during the investigation, including separate and consistent first-person accounts,’ according to the investigation summary,” the Daily Northwestern article written by Alyce Brown states.

The next day, an article by Brown, Nicole Markus, Cole Reynolds and Divya Bhardwaj detailed the hazing allegations after a former Northwestern football player came forward.

According to the report, “some of the hazing conduct investigated by the university involved coerced sexual acts,” with a second player confirming the details.

If you’d like more of those details, you can find the article on the Daily Northwestern’s website.

In the days following, Northwestern University President Michael Schill made a statement over email acknowledging that he may have made a mistake in his decision to suspend Fitzgerald for two weeks, citing the amount of evidence and the responsibility of Fitzgerald in overseeing the program as items that inspired him to have second thoughts.

Three more players came forward detailing a “culture of enabling racism” within the program in an article written by Brown, Markus and Reynolds that was published on July 10.

That same day, the school announced that it was parting ways with Fitzgerald.

It’s quite typical to hear the word “exposed” in these instances, and it’s not entirely wrong to say so, but what truly happened was student journalists reporting on the brave individuals who spoke up. The Northwestern program was simply “exposed” for something it did to itself.

On top of that, the Daily Northwestern led the way in the reporting of this scandal. There is the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times and even the New York Times in the area, but it was a 142-year old student newspaper that was breaking news and talking to former players.

One could ask why the more seasoned “professional” reporters weren’t quite on top of things in the way the Daily Northwestern staff was. That’s because student journalists are just journalists, as several members of the Enterprise’s own staff who wrote for their school publications will attest.

Kudos to the Daily Northwestern for telling the stories of the courageous individuals who came forward. Good journalism is good journalism, no matter who or where it comes from.