John S. Carroll, who was the editor of The Baltimore Sun for 10 years, passed away at his home in Lexington, KY, on Sunday from a rare neurological disorder, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. He was 73.
Carroll is also credited with restoring the reputation at the Los Angeles Times, where he worked after his position in Baltimore, even helping to earn the paper 13 Pulitzer Prizes in his five year tenure (including five in 2004).
“He was a remarkable person, as well as an exceptional journalist,” says newspaper veteran Fred Hill, who came up with Carroll as a young reporter at The Sun. “He had the highest integrity, status, and determination to excel and report news as clearly and concisely as possible.”
The two colleagues became friends during Carroll’s first stint as a reporter at The Sun in 1966—when they both shared a bachelor pad in Roland Park. Carroll stayed in Baltimore until the paper sent him to cover Vietnam. After a storied career that took him to The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Lexington Herald-Leader, he then returned to The Sun as its editor in 1991, where he stayed until 2000. During that period, he helped the paper earned a Pulitzer for a series on the environmental dangers posed by dismantling ships in the Inner Harbor.
Hill, with co-editor Steve Broening, is editing a book on The Sun, to be published by Rowman Littlefield next year. The book, which Hill was planning on having Carroll contribute to, will be a series of essays about the period at the newspaper between the 1960s and the mid-1990s, when The Sun was considered one of the best papers in the country. Hill says now he will likely use an excerpt from one of Carroll’s articles instead.
“He was a remarkable journalist, extraordinary leader, and extremely dedicated to public service,” Hill says. “It’s a tragedy that he’s gone.”
Besides his groundbreaking work, Carroll’s legacy also includes his contributions as a founding board member of the News Literacy Project, whose mission is to educate students in middle school and high school about journalistic integrity in the digital age. The project has set up a fund in his name.
Fittingly, many journalists have been sharing their admiration for Carroll, including Pulitzer-winning columnist Connie Schultz, who wrote on Twitter: “John Carroll was an outstanding journalist and a fine man. I knew him as a rare editor who talked less, listened more.”