Publisher’s note: Roy Peter Clark, senior fellow at Poynter, suggests this week that “public journalism” of the1990s might offer answers for covering Donald Trump. He suggests the late Cole Campbell, editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from 1996-2000 and a leading advocate of public journalism, lost out to dismissive traditionalists and to a “crusade” from the St. Louis Journalism Review, GJR’s parent. Charles Klotzer, SJR founder, agrees the review, and especially contributor Don Corrigan, played a part. Some former Post-Dispatch staffers suggest Campbell failed more because of personal leadership failings than a rejection of his philosophy. – WF
At a time when America and American journalism seems befuddled by what constitutes effective campaign coverage – especially in the era of Bernie, Trump and Twitter – maybe retro is a place to look.
…We’ve been through this before, friends, and not so long ago. In 1988, journalists experienced waves of criticism, leading to defensiveness and self-flagellation, over the effectiveness of what is still derided as “horse-race coverage.”
That moment in time also happened to produce one of the most provocative reform movements in the history of American journalism. It had two common names: Public Journalism and Civic Journalism. The movement had leaders, professional (Buzz Merritt and Cole Campbell) and academic (Jay Rosen). It had experiments. It developed manifestos. It offered results. And it had many, many, shall I say, detractors.
Most of those non-believers were famous and influential editors. “All journalism is public,” they would say with a wave of the hand. The St. Louis Journalism Review made attacks upon public journalism and the late Cole Campbell, then editor of the Post-Dispatch, a crusade.
Suddenly, public journalism was gone, a tiny echo in a deep canyon, a whisper in the wind.