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Donna Leff

Donna Leff

Professor

Donna Rosene Leff, Ph.D., is a professor of journalism at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism and a faculty affiliate of the University's Institute for Policy Research.

Leff teaches courses in science writing, urban reporting, the analysis of urban issues, culture and business of journalism and media law and ethics and does research on science/policy issues and the role of minorities and race in media coverage and in the profession.

She is co-author of "The Journalism of Outrage" and several related agenda- setting studies involving a multi-disciplinary study of the impact of investigative reporting on social issues. She has published several articles in medicine journals on tuberculosis policy in metropolitan health departments and has presented papers and been a panelist on medicine and journalism ethics symposia.

Leff's interest in health policy research is an outgrowth of her award-winning investigative reporting for "Chicago Today" and the Chicago Tribune newspapers in Chicago and the Ypsilanti Michigan Press, where her exposés included the cover-up of murders at a Veterans Administration Hospital in Ann Arbor, Mich., and widespread waste in public hospitals in Chicago. She also reported on political corruption in Chicago in the 1970s and was an assistant city editor at the Tribune.

Leff began her professional career as a summer reporting intern for the Wall Street Journal in 1969, while she was a senior at Medill.

Teaching Philosophy:

I believe it is entirely possible to teach practical, applied journalism with academic rigor. My goal is to teach students how to get information, to dig deeper than a cursory web search, to use the considerable library resources available to them and to be able to evaluate information with a critical eye. I like vigorous class discussions and I am fond of students on all ends of the political spectrum. I am frustrated by students who don't read, especially who don't read newspapers, and I love students who are news junkies. I have become an informal mentor to the science writing students and try to serve as a liason between the students and the science writing community that will employ them.

Authored Works

  • "The Journalism of Outrage"

Education

Leff received her bachelor's and master's degrees from Northwestern in 1970 and 1971 and her doctorate in 1982 from the University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Public Policy

Research current focus: the universal preschool movement and public policy. Additional work includes an article explaining the impact factor as it is applied to scientific publications (Journal of the American Dietetic Association, January 2005). I also have been a judge for the James Beard Foundation journalism awards for the past three years, and I judge journalism competitions for the American College of Allergy and Immunology and the American College of Colon and Rectal Surgeons. I was a founding member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.

In the spring of 2004, Leff participated in several discussions of the fallout after Jayson Blair was caught fabricating stories for the New York Times, including a panel discussion for the Chicago chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists, and on CNBC's noon news program.

"Making an impact: the rise of the impact factor as a measure of journal quality." - Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2005 Jan; 105(1): 29-30

"How to Write for the Public."- American Dietetic Association. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 104, no. 5 (May 2004): p. 730-732.

"Sandbox Cum Laude: A new state law promises free preschool to all kids. But can we really bring it off?" Leff and her colleague David Kirp wrote this article for the July 16, 2006 Chicago Tribune Magazine. A longer version will appear in Kirp's forthcoming book on the public policy of universal preschool, to be published next year by Harvard University Press.

Awards And Honors

Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies Fellowship

1989 to 1990 - Committee on Institutional Cooperation Academic Leadership Program Fellow

1980 - Pericles Foundation Fellow

1977 to 1980 - National Research Service Award, National Institute of Mental Health Fellowship Award (Grant #5 T32 MH15129-03)

1976 - Michigan Associated Press Award, Second Prize for Investigative Reporting

1976 - Michigan Associated Press Award, First Prize for Investigative Reporting

1976 - Michigan Associated Press Sweepstakes Award

1975 - State Bar of Michigan Advancement of Justice Award

1974 - Inland Daily Press Association Local Reporting Award

1973 - Chicago Today, in-house prize for Investigative Reporting

1970 to 1971 - Heath-Allen Foundation Fellow

1970 - Kappa Tau Alpha (journalism scholastic honorary)

1969 - Dow Jones Newspaper Fund Reporting Fellow