DePauw journalism prof cleared in public records case

I asked DePauw visiting journalism professor Mark Tatge if he cared to comment on Poynter ethicist Kelly McBride’s remarks about his use of public records in the classroom, and if there were updates to share with Romenesko readers. His reply:

Mark Tatge

My response: “There seems to be a total misunderstanding of my intentions. I in no way intended to embarrass or humiliate anyone. This was a teaching exercise. This is a public record in a public Indiana court. People who get arrested and charged with a crime give up their right to privacy. If people don’t like this, then they should start a petition to change the U.S. Constitution.”

UPDATE: Vice President of Academic Affairs David Harvey informed me via email Sunday that he does not plan to take any formal action against me. President Brian Casey is meeting with members of the faculty today to address concerns this case has raised about academic freedom at DePauw.



  1. lewis cope said:

    A couple of questions:
    1. Was she convicted, or where do the changes now stand? Part of good journalism is not to just base reports on police charges, but tell what then happens . If this was part of the classroom exercise, great. If not, why not?
    2. Was she asked to give her side of things?. If that was part of the classroom exercise, great. If not, that violated a basic tenant of good journalism. And it was unfair to her. Lew Cope, retired Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter.

  2. A guy said:

    Why should she be asked to give her side of things, if the point of the lesson was only to show students how much information is public record? The students weren’t asked to write articles off of the information. If anything, asking this college student to give “her side” to 30 individuals who weren’t going to do anything with the information anyway would only increase the perception this young woman’s privacy was somehow violated.

  3. JT said:

    “[p]eople who get arrested”? Was she convicted?

    People get arrested who haven’t done anything wrong.

  4. Ken Doran said:

    He is denying the wrong charge. I have not heard anyone accuse him of a vendetta against the student. (That probably would be firing offense.) The accusation is bad judgment in choosing a class exercise that severely embarrasses a student in the school, rather than one of a hundred other possibilities. I am a fairly extreme civil libertarian, and I would be livid if a teacher pulled that on my daughter.

  5. alicia shepard said:

    I think this raises the question every journalist should always be asking: Just because you can, should you?

  6. Jake said:

    I fear for the profession, reading the cry-babies attacking the professor for providing an extremely important lesson.

    Days like this, I actually am glad I embraced the “dark side” of PR when the print biz began its collapse.

  7. Jake said:

    Sure, teach them to hide the stuff that affects people they know… ’cause they might have their feelings hurt.

    Great lesson you wish to give. You sure you’re not a politician?

  8. Jake said:

    More like, “Do as I did for 25 years,” until the industry collapsed. These days, I advise folks to get out front when they have bad news – because SOBs like me will make it much worse for them when they get caught trying to hide things.

    Whether you want to admit it or not, you’re arguing against the use of simply obtained public records to demonstrate how simply they are obtained.

    If her “friends” had not taken this to her, she wouldn’t have known what was used in class. If SHE hadn’t made it a public issue, it wouldn’t have become public.

    Sua Sponte