In a career that spanned over four decades and three editorships across three papers, John Carroll, who passed away Sunday at the age of 73, impacted many, and those whose careers and work have been shaped by his advice and mentorship shared their memories of the editor known for his knack for blockbuster investigations.
One of those reporters was NPR’s media correspondent David Folkenflik, who worked at The Baltimore Sun during Carroll’s tenure there. “Many of the newsrooms he led walked a bit taller,” Folkenflik wrote of the editor. “Had he gone on to edit The Washington Post or The New York Times, he’d have been a legendary figure instead of an editor honored largely inside his profession.”
John McIntyre, The Baltimore Sun’s night editor, linked to his remembrance of Carroll in a tweet that stated, “I owe John Carroll a debt.” In his piece, McIntyre described how Carroll encouraged him to, in Carroll’s words, “lead an effort to improve the quality of writing and editing in the paper,” and get involved with the American Copy Editors Society. “What reputation I have beyond the newsroom of The Sun,” wrote McIntyre, “is largely due to opportunities that John Carroll made possible.”
Poynter’s media business analyst, Rick Edmonds, wrote that, “among many generous mentors, John may have been the most important to me,” going on to reflect on what Carroll had taught him about investigative journalism.
I remember John saying that he thought many of the best reporters fell into one of two categories. Indicters have a particular passion for exposing and righting wrongs. Explainers have a gift for mastering the complexities of a situation then telling the story clearly.
Put an indicter and explainer together on an investigative team and you gain both complementary skills and a correction for an outcome that could otherwise be lopsidedly prosecutorial or low key and lacking an edge.
In all their remembrances, these reporters and editors kept going back to Carroll’s own words and lessons, timeless and resonant. And this is perhaps the greatest tribute to an editor’s legacy.