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From AJR,   April 1999  issue

Keeping the Faith   


By John Carroll
John Carroll is the editor in chief of the Baltimore Sun.     

"If you were to visit the Baltimore Sun's newsroom today, you might be surprised as much by what we're not doing as by what we do.

"We have, for example, no self-improvement programs. You won't find reengineering, or quality circles or News 2000. You won't encounter editors brandishing MBAs, nor will you hear journalists being exhorted to get out of their silos. No one is being put through months and months of meetings, leading eventually to the formation of teams. Nobody believes that the way to compete with television is to become more like television.

"On your visit to the Sun, you might also note an absence of hand-wringing about television and the Internet. Our staff knows that a newspaper can have far more influence in a community than all its electronic competitors combined, and that only a newspaper can seriously aspire to be the conscience, and the goad, of a city, or of a state.

"In short, we see more opportunities than threats, and we're not wasting our time pining for the days of yore or casting about for gimmicks.

"Today, if you read the regional and local press--the papers that reach most Americans--you'll sense something missing. That crucial ingredient is faith--a widespread confidence that what we do matters. Today's journalists are constantly being reminded that they are functionaries of business, yet they know in their hearts that the stock price is a hollow god. They believe--perhaps quixotically, under some owners--that they work for the entire community, not just the stockholders. They sense that newspaper work can, and should be, a wonderfully satisfying and entertaining way to engage the world, and that in a free society there is no mightier sword than the written word."

--Baltimore Sun Editor John Carroll speaking in February while accepting the National Press Foundation's Editor of the Year award