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Former Publisher Named Student Media Director, Weil Professor

March 22, 2007

photo of James Crutchfield
James N. Crutchfield, a former major newspaper publisher and editor, will become director of Student Media at Arizona State University and the Weil Family Professor of Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Crutchfield joined the Cronkite School this semester as the first Edith Kinney Gaylord Visiting Professor in Journalism Ethics, a position created through a generous grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, after spending the previous five years as publisher and president of the Akron Beacon Journal. He stepped down from that position last year following the sale of Knight Ridder Newspapers.

A four-time Pulitzer Prize juror, Crutchfield was one of the few African Americans to serve as publisher of a major metropolitan daily newspaper.

In the new joint appointment, Crutchfield will serve as Student Media director and on the faculty of the Cronkite School. Student Media operates The State Press, the university’s independent student newspaper with a daily distribution of 17,000, as well as the weekly State Press Magazine, the ASU Web Devil, the online arm of the State Press, and Channel 2, a cable station that airs on campus.

“We are extremely fortunate to have attracted the interest of Jim Crutchfield to Student Media,” said James Rund, vice president for university student initiatives, which oversees Student Media. “The expert skill set, industry experience and professional wisdom that Jim brings to Student Media positions us as one of the best student media centers in the country.”

At the Cronkite School, Crutchfield will hold the rank of professor of practice and Weil Family Professor of Journalism. The endowed professorship is named in honor of Louis “Chip” Weil, the former publisher of The Arizona Republic and chairman and chief executive officer of Central Newspapers Inc.

Weil created the endowed professorship through a generous gift in an effort to support “outstanding faculty who will impact the country’s future journalists.” He retired in 2000 after a career that also included positions as publisher of Time magazine and The Detroit News.

Crutchfield will complete his one-semester term as the school’s first Edith Kinney Gaylord Visiting Professor in Journalism Ethics. Crutchfield is teaching “Journalism Ethics and Diversity,” a new undergraduate course required of Cronkite students. The professorship was created in honor of the late Ms. Gaylord through a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, which Ms. Gaylord founded in 1982 to improve the quality and ethical standards of journalism.

“Jim Crutchfield has been a top leader and innovator in the news industry for many years, and will do a spectacular job imparting Chip Weil’s high journalistic values to the next generation of America’s journalists,” said Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan. “Jim also will make The State Press, the Web Devil and Channel 2 incubators for great ideas and innovations that will help all of journalism.”

Crutchfield replaces Kristin Gilger at Student Media, who stepped down to become assistant dean for professional programs at the Cronkite School.

Crutchfield, 58, a graduate of Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, started his career as a reporter for the Pittsburgh Press in 1968. He moved to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 1971 and in 1976 left for the Detroit Free Press.

Following a two-year stint in Washington as press secretary to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., Crutchfield returned to the Free Press as the state capital bureau chief. He went on to serve as assistant city editor, deputy city editor, city editor, metropolitan editor and deputy managing editor for the Free Press.

In 1989, he left Detroit to become managing editor of the Beacon Journal. Four years later, he was named executive editor of the Press-Telegram in Long Beach, Calif. Following the sale of the Press-Telegram in 1997, he joined Philadelphia Newspapers, which publishes The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, as assistant to the publisher and then director of single-copy sales and distribution. He returned to Akron in 2000 as the Beacon Journal’s general manager and was appointed publisher the following year.

The Beacon Journal, one of the nation’s 100 largest daily newspapers, has long been recognized for its superior local and community coverage. The newspaper has won four Pulitzer Prizes, including the 1994 Pulitzer for Public Service for a sweeping examination of local racial attitudes. Crutchfield was the newspaper’s managing editor at the genesis of the race relations project.

Crutchfield is a founder of his local United Way’s Dorothy O. Jackson Society, a group of minority donors, and serves on the boards of the Miami-based John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

“I’m honored to assume the Weil Family professorship and the Student Media director position,” Crutchfield said. “I remember Chip Weil as a strong competitor in Detroit, and I share his passion for developing future journalists. At the same time, I see the Student Media position as a way to have a great impact on the journalists and the journalism of the future. ASU is the right place and this is the right time for Student Media to be a laboratory for new ways in the news media. We’re in a time of transition, and this is a great place to help reshape the media for this century.”

The Cronkite School is a nationally recognized program that focuses on professional journalism education at the undergraduate and master’s levels. The school regularly finishes in the Top 10 of the Hearst intercollegiate journalism competitions, and is the home of the Knight Chair in Computer-Assisted Reporting, the Frank Russell Chair in the Business of Journalism and the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism.