John S. Carroll, revered newspaper editor and News Literacy Project founding board member, dies at 73

John S. Carroll, a revered newspaper editor and founding member of the News Literacy Project’s board, died this morning at his home in Lexington, Kentucky. He was 73.
Lee Carroll, his wife, said the cause was Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare degenerative brain disorder.

“We are deeply saddened by this enormous loss,” NLP President Alan C. Miller said. “As a journalist, John epitomized the values that NLP is nurturing in the next generation. As a board member, he was a guiding force in launching and building the project. His commitment to our mission, colleagues and staff was extraordinary. He will be greatly missed.”

Carroll was the editor of the Los Angeles Times from 2000 to 2005, during which time the paper won 13 Pulitzer Prizes. He also was the editor of The Baltimore Sun (1991-2000) and the Lexington Herald-Leader (1979-1991). He served on the Pulitzer Prize board from 1994 to 2003 and was its chairman in 2002. Earlier in his career he was a reporter at The Sun and an editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Carroll was respected for his brilliant leadership, integrity, courage and unshakable commitment to the highest possible standards. He was an exceptionally exacting but invariably gracious boss. He was widely considered one of the greatest newspaper editors of his era, if not any era.

Charles Lewis, executive editor of the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University’s School of Communication, was a fellow with Carroll at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy and served with him on the News Literacy Project’s founding board.

“It was an honor for me to know and work with him,” Lewis said. “I was, and I always will be, in awe of his wisdom, his judgment and his generous spirit and friendship.”

Carroll joined NLP in late 2007 as one of its first two board members and was elected board chair on Jan. 1, 2011. He skillfully, tirelessly and selflessly led the board and NLP through a period of dramatic success and growth before stepping down on Dec. 31, 2014.

“For me, being chair has been an education and a privilege,” Carroll said. “We’ve demonstrated the value of news literacy and the ways it can be taught. Having done so on a retail basis, we’re going to make the training available digitally at no cost to any school that asks for it. If we’re successful — and I’m confident that we will be — we stand to reach hundreds of thousands, and perhaps millions, of young people with training that will be good both for them and for society.”

He remained a member of NLP’s board until his death.

Gwen Ifill, co-anchor and co-managing editor of PBS NewsHour, host of Washington Week and a member of NLP’s board since 2011, said at Carroll’s final meeting in December, “We would not have launched this successful project without the credibility that the name ‘John Carroll’ brings to the business. We couldn’t even have dreamt of being in this position.”

Miller, who as an investigative reporter at the Los Angeles Times worked closely with Carroll — and won a Pulitzer Prize— before recruiting him to the NLP board, called him “a role model, a mentor, a remarkable friend and one of the finest human beings I’ve ever known. The example John set and the lessons he taught us will live on with scores of journalists and friends and former colleagues.”

In fact, the editors of The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer and the managing editor of the Houston Chronicle all worked for Carroll at some point in their careers.

Vernon Loeb, the Chronicle’s managing editor, said, “We must carry on in his memory, and with his inspiration. I’ll never forget his counsel: ‘Write about life and death.’ Or the great line in his [National Press Foundation] Editor of the Year acceptance speech: ‘In a free society, there is no mightier sword than the written word.’”

Lee Carroll has asked that in lieu of flowers, that donations be made to either NLP or the John S. Carroll Endowed Scholarship at Alice Lloyd College in Pippa Passes, Kentucky.

All proceeds to NLP will go to the John S. Carroll Memorial Fund, which will support underserved high school students enrolled in the project’s programs.

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