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John Carroll 1942 – 2015

18 Jun 2015

It is with immense sadness we report the death of former Reuters fellow John Carroll (’88-89), a giant of journalism. He died on the 14th June after a months-long battle with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. He was a tremendous participant in the 1988-89 programme, sharing his deep experience and enthusiasm for the profession with all who attended that year. John was an American journalist and newspaper editor, known for his work as the editor of; the Lexington Herald-Leader, directing it to its first Pulitzer Prize; the Los Angeles Times, where he restored the paper and led them to 13 Pulitzer Prizes; and The Baltimore Sun. After leaving the Sun in 2005 John served as a visiting lecturer at Harvard University and as an outspoken advocate for the traditional role of journalism and newspapers in American society. Thoughts in remembrance, by Neville Maxwell John was a Fellow in the Programme's earliest, indeed pre-natal days, 1988/9, when it was still in its Queen Elizabeth House womb but very much alive and kicking.  He heard about it from Howard Simons, Curator of  the Nieman Program, whom I had told of my aim of setting up "another Nieman" in Oxford -- in which there would be a place for the occasional established, senior journalist as well as the promising early-career people who would be its main focus.  So the penny dropped when I learned from Howard that John Carroll was longing for a Nieman-type break from his editorship in Kentucky, and I offered him a Fellowship. My thought had been that people of editorial rank or experience would help the other members of the Programme nourish their professional roots from collegial closeness with its master-craftsmen while they were drawing on the University's academic resources, and that expectation was richly fulfilled by John's membership.  He quickly helped the Term's intake gell into a coherent, confident unity, and his broad experience in the field as foreign correspondent, behind the editor's desk and especially in investigative journalism (in which he was a pioneer) was, with his warm friendliness, a constant resource and stimulus for his colleagues, myself certainly among them.  I remember he organised a group photo of the Fellows at Term's end and, a typical touch, hired gowns and mortar-boards for their embellishment.  I'm sure that photo is still cherished by his contemporaries.  Noting how John's career dramatically and continually shot up after his time in Oxford, ranking him one of the great American journalists of his day, perhaps we may tell ourselves that in this case post hoc, propter hoc is not entirely fallacious, confident that John at least would not have rebuked us for the presumption.   

Photo credit: John Carroll celebrates with LA Times staffers one of 13 Pulitzer Prizes won under his editorship there. (Photo by Gary Friedman/LATimes)